Friday, 30 December 2011

Review: VISIONS OF ATLANTIS - “MARIA MAGDALENA E.P.”



(Considering the number of music reviews by me that see the light of day in the press, I thought I should start posting more of them here. Let's get started)

Visions of Atlantis have been gaining something of a notable following this past year or so, and I'm not quite sure why, to be honest. I'd heard them a few years back, when they were still cloning Nightwish note-for-note, and hadn't thought much else about them until recently. Now the band seems to be getting far more press than symphonic metal bands tend to of late, and I thought it was time to check out what the fuss was about.

This latest release is a 6 track E.P. built up from the title track, a cover of a song originally by pop singer Sandra. That first track is a great cover, and fits the band's metallic blueprint of soaring dual vocals and chunky riffs very well.

The problem is, once you're past that track, the rest is all rather similar. The guitars sound like Nightwish, Epica, Sirenia and Tristania throughout the disc, and a mostly clearly recorded directly into a computer rather than via amps, as they have a curiously flat sound.

The songs are sadly rather standard symphonic metal, but the fact that the male vocals are sung rather than growled wins the band major points with me, as I'm sick to death of grunted vocals over otherwise uplifting songs. Perhaps this was the wrong release for me to pick up as a way to get acquainted with them, but heck, it was cheap on iTunes and I'd heard good things about the band (I really hope those good things aren't just based on how pretty current vocalist Maxi Nil is) . It's okay, but definitely just a stop-gap release.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

2011 – The Year Things Actually Changed


Every year as long as I can remember, I've ended December with 'Next year will be MY year', or 'Next year is the year everything changes at last', or some such vague nonsense. The thing is, this year stuff DID change, and change in ways that I couldn't have dreamed of.

My career as a writer has finally started to gain momentum, with the release of three books this year (DEAD THING, DIARY OF A GENRE ADDICT VOLUME 1 and FOR THE FALLEN), eleven more issues of Powerplay Rock and Metal Magazine and my first ever legit fiction sale (“Beneath An Orange Sky”, which will feature in the anthology EXPLORERS BEYOND THE HORIZON in the US in 2012). 

Those literary adventures included the first two books of my OTHERSIDE trilogy, writing for Horrornews.net and Lost In The Multiplex, my first forays into eBook publishing and the opportunity to interview some of the greatest rock and metal musicians in the world. My personal highlights include hugely enjoyable chats with guitar legend George Lynch, ANTHRAX guitar legend Scott Ian, ARCH ENEMY vocalist Angela Gossow, ANVIL frontman Lips and EVANESCENCE vocalist Amy Lee. That interview with Amy Lee scored me my first ever cover feature for the magazine, and it was an absolute thrill to see my work on the cover of the magazine I love.

Speaking of music, here are my top ten albums of the year, in no particular order (and with no concern for how much some folks will mock me):

The Man Eating Tree- “Harvest”

Evanescence - “Evanescence”

Trillium - “Alloy”

Chris Duarte Group - “Blues In The Afterburner”

Nightwish - “Imaginaerum”

LOVE.MIGHT.KILL – “Brace For Impact”

Anvil -”Juggernaut of Justice”

George Lynch - “Kill All Control”

Omega Lithium - “Kinetik”

Arch Enemy - “Khaos Legions”

But there was more to 2011 than just my career. Things have been changing at home and in my dayjob, but the greatest moment of the year came around my birthday in August, when it was discovered that myself and my girl are expecting our first baby together. I cannot put our excitement regarding this into adequate words. We are absolutely thrilled, and are both eagerly awaiting the first third of next year, when we will be able to welcome our baby into the world. I am going to be a daddy, and I am genuinely looking forward to the challenges that this transformative event shall bring. Naturally, I also have my fears about the future, which is why I have created The First Time Daddy, a blog about exactly what I am going through, my hopes and fears for the future, and more.

Other events that made 2011 so very memorable include:

REVAMP/EPICA at the Rescue Rooms
Two of the greatest symphonic metal bands on the planet at one small venue? Hell yes. Being able to witness Floor Jansen and Simone Simons sharing a stage was a dream come true. Two of the most incredible voices I have ever heard.

The Opening of Robin Hood: Rise Of A Rebel
I was commissioned to supply art for a new exhibition at the Galleries of Justice Museum here in Nottingham. I drew a dozen comic art images of Robin Hood characters and my colleague and friend Chris Dowson supplied amazing digital colours. The exhibition opened to a rapturous response from local government, students involved with the project and the public. It remains open now and has proven to be a big draw for visitors to the city. That night was one of the proudest moments of my life.

ANVIL live at the Rescue Rooms
After my interview with Lips, myself and my good friend Chris Dowson had a blast at the evening's concert, before which I met up with a bunch of people I had only ever talked to online before. A brilliant show and a brilliant crowd vibe.

FIREFEST 2011 at Nottingham Rock City
Three days of incredible melodic rock music, meeting friends and catching up with Powerply magazine colleagues were enjoyed in October. Out of the bands that played (all of whome were excellent), the highlights for me were sets by SERPENTINE, Jimi Jamison, W.E.T, Alien, and the Steve Augeri band. Firefest continues to deliver the goods, and it was a pleasure and an honour to be able to cover it for the magazine again. A much-appreciated VIP pass meant I was able to cover the shows from a great vantage point and also mingle a bit with the acts themselves. What a weekend. I can't wait for the next fest!

THE ALL-NIGHT BAD MOVIE EXPERIENCE at the Broadway Cinema
Four bad movies, a load of vintage trailers, and nine hours spent in the company of 150 rabid film fans in a gorgeous cinema, laughing and trying to stay awake. Bliss. 

So. 2011 was indeed the year things changed, and it looks like 2012 will continue this trend in brilliant style. There are more books on the horizon, a web series, a movie screening night, a podcast, a movie shoot, lots more fiction and the joys of fatherhood to come.

It's not a build-up any more. It's not a series of hopes and dreams. It's a fact. It's happening.

Planet Earth, here I come.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Review: The Black Corridor - Michael Moorcock

This had been sat on my shelves for a while, mixed in with the hundreds of other vintage SF paperbacks I am working my way through, and I thought it was about time I gave it a go. I am most glad that I did so, as the book is thoroughly engrossing and rather different to a great many other books I have read from the late 1960s. It tells the tale of Mr. Ryan, a man alone in his duties on a spacecraft, working to keep the ship operational for its five year journey while his family and friends are in stasis elsewhere in the ship. Or are they?

Told in a mix of styles from linear narrative to flashbacks, dreams, computer text and diary entries, the book was an odd collaboration between Moorcock and Hilary Bailey, his wife at the time (for more on how the collaboration took shape, visit the book's Wikipedia entry).

On one hand it's a science fiction novel about loneliness, endurance and a gradual slide into insanity, while on the other it is also a story about the break-down of civilization as the Earth descends into genocidal, xenophobic madness.

Either way, it's a fascinating read, and one I would recommend. Some passages are horrific and surreal, while others are stark and thoughtful. The flashback sequences gradually unravel the real plot, which is in turns frustrating and shocking, as characters you thought you knew well are revealed to be much more flawed than you may initially believe. I genuinely enjoyed this approach, and Moorcock handles it well.

There are very few scenes that didn't work for me as a reader, and while The Black Corridor may not be a science fiction novel that all enthusiasts will enjoy, its rather ambiguous ending will ensure the story stays with you long after the final page. You can find the novel easily on eBay and Amazon.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES - NEW TRAILER!


I wasn't holding my breath for this film to do much for me, to be honest. I loved BATMAN BEGINS, but openly despised THE DARK KNIGHT. It just didn't work for me at all. However, this just-released trailer for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES looks amazing. I'm sold.

I'm not sure how long the video below will be visible before Warners have it taken down from YouTube, so do check it out. Bane looks like just as much of a badass as I was hoping he was, and I have to say that Anne Hathaway's Selina Kyle seems far more promising than I had originally thought.

I'm looking forward to a more traditional take on Batman when it gets rebooted in 2013 prior to the Justice League movie, but for now I think this final Nolan film will round off an uneven trilogy very well.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

NEMESEA - "Afterlife"

An excellent song from an excellent new arrival on the global scene. Think a more gothic Evanescence or a more metallic Within Temptation. I need to check out their album, and so do you.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Leona Lewis Has Covered “Hurt”. The World Must Be Destroyed.

These are the end times. Leona Lewis, the personification of sugar and fluff, has recorded a cover version of “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails. This fact alone should be enough to warrant several thousand nuclear warheads being aimed at the Earth's core. I not only don't want to live on this planet any more, I'd rather like the entire planet to be reduced to nothing but ashes. It's the only sensible option.

The original is one of the most beautifully melancholic and introspective songs ever written, a bitter slice of wallowing that solace can be found in, not a throwaway ballad sung by some ululating, twee popstrel.

Johnny Cash got away with covering it because it was JOHNNY CASH covering it. His version was simple, bleak and raw. The Nine Inch Nails original was a rare and precious thing, a perfect song performed with the perfect atmosphere. Now it has been sullied by Leona 'ballads for blood' Lewis, and our world has run out of time.

See what you've done, Leona? You have made all those crap prophecies about the end of the world coming in 2012 arrive early. The only way humanity can be saved is for the original version of the song to be played hourly on every radio station, TV channel, YouTube channel and smartphone in the world for the next six months. Only Trent Reznor can save us now.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

FOR THE FALLEN - OUT NOW!!!



FOR THE FALLEN, the sequel to DEAD THING and the second novella in THE OTHERSIDE TRILOGY, is available NOW!!! You can download it immediately from Amazon for the Kindle device and Kindle apps on your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop, or you can order the paperback edition!!!

FOR THE FALLEN: THE OTHERSIDE TRILOGY BOOK II
Lisa, a young woman whose flatmates are butchered by a demon, discovers more about her past than she thought possible. Now, alongside the Paranormal Division and a strange visitor, she must fight not only for her life, but also fight for the fallen.







AND AN ANNOUNCEMENT...

THE OTHERSIDE TRILOGY WILL BE CONCLUDED IN 2012
WITH BOOK THREE, ENTITLED...

MORE NEWS SOON.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Miss Behaviour - '1988'

Simply a brilliant song from one of the best melodic rock albums I have ever had the pleasure of reviewing. I still play this album all the time. Superb.

Friday, 25 November 2011

FOR THE FALLEN - BOOK COVER REVEALED!

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I am able to reveal the finished cover to my new book, FOR THE FALLEN! Featuring cover model Kelly Purdy, this is the cover that will be adorning both the print version and the Kindle version of the book.

FOR THE FALLEN is a direct sequel to my earlier book, DEAD THING, but it can also be read as a standalone story! The book will be released on the Kindle and available to order in paperback from the 3rd of December!


Sunday, 20 November 2011

Man Vs Food – Saving The World With Meat


I have recently become a convert to the glorious televisual feast that is Man Vs. Food. This simple but beautiful series follows a gent called Adam as he goes around the US stuffing his face. This is a beautiful thing, despite the drooling that it inspires.

My friends have loved it for ages, but I've only had limited TV viewing time for several years now with work and life, but an episode caught my eye and now, eight or so episodes later, I am as hooked as the rest of them. Granted, I was hooked after that first episode, but it's taken eight for me to stop salivating long enough to tell you about it.

I love food. Food is amazing. It is a pleasure as well as a necessity, and as such shows like Man Vs. Food, which demonstrate a genuine enjoyment of eating and cooking, go to show the world that there is life beyond salad.

The gargantuan food challenges are insane, yes, but check out all that free advertising those independent businesses are getting. It's a superb idea. Adam fills his face with delicious treats and businesses get their name and their wares out there for the world to see.

I do bet that the show has caused an increase in sales of chillies, massive steaks, huge sandwiches and antacid tablets in recent times, though.

See? Eating until you explode may be bad for you, but it's awesome for the global economy. Which leads me to the only real conclusion there is – If you eat some big thick burgers, you will pull the world out of the recession. Do it for future generations. Eat, drink and be merry in the name of saving the world.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

DOCTOR WHO FILM COMING – NOOOO! / FIVE ACTORS TO CONSIDER


I am a massive fan of Doctor Who. Twenty-three years ago I saw my first episode at the age of ten, and nobody can have been as pleased as me when the show returned to TV in 2005. Since then I've watched with pride as this battered old TV series not only came back stronger than ever, it became a respected part of the entertainment industry, the toy industry and the hearts and minds of millions worldwide.

Now comes news that Harry Potter director David Yates is set to bring our favourite curious Time Lord to the big screen, in a film that will exist outside of the TV continuity and recast the Doctor with a new lead. Erm, what? While Yates would undoubtedly bring a great deal of class to a Doctor Who film, there's no need for one.

As much fun as Doctor Who film rumours have always been, if you think about it, the show just wouldn't work as a film. Yes, I know there were two Doctor Who films in the sixties, but those Peter Cushing films were patchy affairs at best, and of course, out of the TV continuity. They're nice curios, but not considered much more than that by most of the audience that still remembers they even exist.

A new Doctor Who movie should be part of current continuity, even if it includes past and future versions of the Doctor himself as he faces down whatever threat the film's plot brings. Otherwise, all you essentially have is very expensive fan-fiction that will quickly fade into obscurity. Plus, it has the potential to kill the TV franchise stone dead if it's a stinker.

Ever heard if a book called The Nth Doctor? It covers almost all of the failed attempts to make a Doctor Who film over the years, including the closest one to being made, 'The Dark Dimension', back in '93 or so. Nobody has been able to make a Doctor Who film work, as the format is just too erratic and unpredictable to work as a single-story narrative that a film would require. Don't do it.

As a long-term fan and also as someone who has followed more failed attempts than I care to mention, just leave it alone. Matt Smith is perfect as the Doctor on TV, and there's no need for another incarnation just yet.

However... If there is no way for this project to be cancelled and forgotten, then here are five suggestions for actors who could play the Doctor with brilliant results.

Just whoever it is, please DON'T LET IT BE JOHNNY DEPP. THERE ARE OTHER ACTORS OUT THERE.

So, five actors who would be brilliant are...

CILLIAN MURPHY

He has the skill, and certainly has the otherworldly look of a Time Lord. He's a versatile actor with a unique presence, and is my first thought for a big-screen Doctor. Look at those eyes! Complete Time Lord.

PADDY CONSIDINE

My girlfriend suggested Paddy, and I have to agree. He would be a great choice. He has a unique look and his skills are hugely underrated. I think he'd be a revelation to everyone.

RICHARD AYOADE

While he's known more for comedic roles than anything else, Richard would be a spot-on choice for a younger version of the Doctor. He has impeccable timing and... the perfect hair!

COLIN MCFARLANE

Many people have stated that the Doctor could either be black or a woman in another regeneration. I couldn't give a toss as long as they're the right person for the part. I'm suggesting Colin because he's an incredible actor, and he has the most stunningly beautiful voice in the world.

BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH

Yup, he was considered for the role of the 11th Doctor but turned it down as he didn't want to commit to the franchise. A feature film would be a far shorter shoot than the TV series, and would give us the chance to see one of the finest actors of this generation tackle the greatest science fiction character in history. It's a role he could do remarkable things with. Basically, he is the Doctor.

However, yeah, don't make it.

But if you do, be sure that Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss and Paul Cornell write it and Steven produces it.

Please.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

“DON'T WATCH IT, THEN”


Look, I'm sick of this shit. I really am. The X-Factor is controlling you. You're zombies. This staged, fake, pitiful excuse for entertainment is clearly flashing subliminal messages at you in order to make you watch it more, buy the tabloids, buy the celebrity magazines and the autobiographies of children, in order to make up for revenue lost from you stealing MP3s.

That's all this is. It's a massive, karaoke version of THEY LIVE, in which aliens masquerading as humans fed everyone secret messages on giant billboards in order to keep humanity under control. YOU ARE BEING SEDATED. And look at the scum that is inflicted upon us from this rectal explosion.

Look at the headlines as That Talentless Teenage Wanker With Shit Hair Who Did All The Drugs (or just 'Frankie the prick' if you like) gets forced down our throats some more. Look at the relentless shower of crap that is flung at the populace of the country. Listen to those 'songs'. It's like Satan's own version of Stars in their Eyes.



However, there is something that bugs me even more than The X-factor. It's the people that say 'Well don't watch it then,” when I am seething with white-hot rage at MORE AND MORE people succumbing to its mind-control. It's the people that suggest I don't read the tabloids and celebrity magazines then.

I DON'T. I don't watch it. I don't read about it. The thing is, I can't escape it. It's everywhere. It's a disease that millions of people have come down with, like a cold with less amusing snot. I do read newspapers and magazines. I do watch the news. I do read blogs and visit the entertainment pages of sites. This crap is plastered all over it like sunday morning vomit pools around low-end nightclubs.

It is impossible to avoid, which is why it inspires such blazing hatred in me. My solution? Hell, I don't know any more. Maybe it's just time to nuke the entire planet and have done with it. At least we wouldn't have to put up with the 'judges' (who generally have the talent of an average foreskin) looking constipated any more. Bollocks to the lot of you.

Actually, we need Roddy Piper, and don't give him any gum.


Friday, 11 November 2011

Back in business

hey all, apologies for the lack of posts this past week or so. I'm in the middle of doing NaNoWriMo for the fourth year in a row, but will make sure I post new content here for you too. How the hell are you all?

Tony Macalpine - 'Pyrokinesis'

Tony Macalpine is an amazing musician an no mistake. This track is from his current self-titled instrumental CD and as well as being an amazing tune, it's got a guitar tone I would die for.

Monday, 31 October 2011

TEN CELEBS WHO SHOULD BE SENT TO THE MOON WITHOUT SPACE SUITS

There's only so much vacant-eyed preening I can deal with before I really want to stuff people face-first into a giant cannon and aim them at the moon. Celebs, hereafter referred to as 'Slebs', are rife with candidates for being sent on a one-way moon mission sans oxygen, and here are an initial ten suggestions (of many thousands of contenders) so I can make plans for early acts of my New World Order. They are in no order, as giving them numbers would only seem to humanize them somehow, albeit only a little.



Kim Kardashian 
The princess of being famous for being famous, Kim Kardashian has a face that makes me shoot white-hot lasers made of rage from my eyes while screaming incoherently. She has no talent, the IQ of a sun-baked dog poo and is clearly some failed clone of Nicole Scherzinger. In fact, chuck in her vile sisters too and I'd be happy to hit the big red Moon button.

Jimmy Carr 
I hear that he is a lovely guy to meet, but I am yet to be convinced that Jimmy Carr and his eyebrows are anything but agents of Satan. Everything about him oozes contempt, and his every mannerism and vocal quirk inspires apoplexy in this household. Please, for the sake of our future as a species, get him off the TV and into that limbo of faded Slebs opening supermarkets on warzone council estates.


Snooki 
This is one Sleb in particular that makes me proud that I am British and am safely thousands of miles away from America. The whole Jersey Shore gang deserves flinging into a lunar oubliette, but Snooki would need a special place of her own. A place full of vipers with laser fangs who can sweat hand grenades.

Cher Lloyd 
She can take her Swagger Jagger and stuff it where Cheryl Cole's stolen face doesn't shine. As a pop singer, she is a disgrace. She has no voice, no range, no songwriting skills and no desire to be anything remotely interesting. A fine contender to be strapped to the wing of the ship sending these lumps of wasted carbon into space.

Kanye West 
Because he is clearly a bit of a twat.


David Guetta 
The smug grin. The lazy stubble. The greasy hair. The vague air of trying to hard to be cool. The endless trite dance tracks with no artistic merit whatsoever. Big whoop, you can make a 4/4 dance beat and get some harpy or other to warble over it. I raise a staunch middle finger at the ubiquitous build-ups before a bouncy refrain. He will be sentenced to an eternity listening to a loop of PJ & Duncan's 'Let's Get Ready To Rumble' mixed with a backfiring car engine.

Nicki Minaj 
SHE HAS NO VOICE. Yes, she can rap quickly, but have you ever seen any live footage? She can barely even sound remotely like the processed, tweaked and polished version of herself during her oh-so-clever verses, and then she doesn't even sing the choruses. Oh, and her eyes and teeth terrify me. She looks like a Real Doll, only with a less convincing arse.

Chris Brown 
No matter how many cheerful pop ditties he comes out with, no matter how many videos he fills with laughing children and 'Beautiful people', he'll never get away from the fact that he beat up one of the most famous women in the world. It wouldn't have mattered if she was unknown, though. Attacking the woman you are supposed to be in love with is reprehensible and can never be forgiven. Now there's something you can't hide with auto-tune and a flashy dance sequence, dickhead.

Taylor Lautner 
WHY CAN'T HE DO ANYTHING BUT FROWN AT HIS OWN EYEBROWS?


Russell Brand 
I'm glad he's pissed off to be in films in America. It keeps his frighteningly pointy face off our TVs for a while. And which prick thought it'd be a good idea to cast him in a role originally made famous by Dudley Moore? Where is the sense in that? In fact, where is the sense in Russell Brand? As comedian Brendan Burns once said; “He looks like an advert for Hepatitis.”

Ladies and gents, all aboard! Next stop - LUNAR HELL!!!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Why Don't Film Posters Look This Cool Any More?


Seriously, why don't film posters look this brilliant any more? While the days of painted artwork for most forms of popular media is seen as seriously old-hat now (or worse still, 'retro'), we do seem to be stuck in a rut of being offered nothing but Photoshop rush-jobs. Even on great posters from recent times there doesn't seem to have been much of an effort to come up with something iconic.

The closest I can remember in the past decade have been the Star Wars prequel posters, which were beautifully painted montages, but still done in such a manner to evoke the past. There is beauty in painted artwork that photos and flashy effects cannot reproduce.

having said that, maybe it's only genre cinema where painted artwork still works well. There just seems to be something much more epic and imposing to this style that still wins out over digital hack jobs. The film poster should be the main piece of advertising for any film. It needs to be iconic, instantly recognisable, and desirable in its own right.

Am I trying to hold onto the past? Am I stuck in a world of dead formats and hackneyed methods of advertising? No. I just wish film posters still looked this cool.

Friday, 28 October 2011

MORE FREE HORROR COMING IN DECEMBER


A new FREE horror story will be released everywhere in December. 

 More on this soon, but for now, be teased:


Thursday, 27 October 2011

Gearing Up For NaNoWriMo 2011

It's almost that time of year again folks, when it suddenly becomes easy to spot writers in the street by the bags under their eyes, the manic, caffeine-induced stare, the smoke coming from their laptops in coffee shops or the reams of paper under their arms. It is, my friends, time to write 50,000 words in 30 days again.

This will be the fourth time I have attempted to hit the 50k mark as part of NaNoWriMo, and I'm going for a different approach this year. Where in previous years (of which I completed the challenge once) I slaved away on one project for the duration of the event, this year I will be using NaNoWriMo in order to complete a slew of projects and start some new ones off as well as writing some short pieces in there too. 

This work will hopefully exceed the 50,000 word total, and as I'll be writing 50k in 30 days, I'll be sticking to the rules. Why the change in direction? Because I'm tired of being one of those writers with a load of projects 'underway'. I mean, I do finish my projects but there's always something else on the go which needs some attention. No more. Not this time. Time to get serious and get these stories out there. 

And so, this year's attempt from me will be a mixture of finishing fiction projects, starting a major non-fiction work that countless people have suggested I have a stab at, and keeping up with my regular assignments for the press and online media. As ever, I am foreseeing that it will be a struggle, but hopefully this way I will be able to clear my slate of a number of projects that would otherwise be trapped in limbo.

I want to get these things out there for you, get some stuff under the noses of editors and agents who work with my kinda stuff. Most of all I want to have a stack of finished projects rather than a series of unfinished pieces. Time to clear out the 'To Finish' folder and take all of this stuff to a new level.

If you're taking part too, then good luck. If you'\re not taking part, please excuse us poor hacks while we deprive ourselves of sleep and lives in order to get these things out of our heads and into yours. Cheers for that in advance.

Monday, 24 October 2011

FIREFEST 2011: Yet More Proof That Rock Is Alive And Well


I'm still coming down from the amazing weekend of music that was FireFest 2011. After last year's incredible event I thought it would be impossible to have a better time, but I was even more thrilled this time around. There is more to the festival than just listening to a bunch of bands, though. Much more.

A massive part of the magic of FireFest is the atmosphere – The crowd, the artists and the crew all seemed to be getting along famously, safe in the knowledge that they were amongst their own kind, sharing a deep and long lasting love for melodic rock.

Every band played their hearts out, and aside from a technical issue here and there, I couldn't have wished for more. Even though a selection of the acts had also played at last year's, the feeling of deja vu was minimal, and that's a testament to the quality on show.


I was lucky enough to spend a good deal of the event up in the VIP area, and talking to the other journalists up there and some of the artists themselves, I was thrilled that everyone seemed to be on the same page.

This is a festival that kicks ass in every way, from the cheery merchandise stall staff and the camaraderie of a venue full of people who barely know each other, right up to the polished and thrilling performances from each band onstage. The community spirit of FireFest went that step further this year, with a special extra event being held in order to help raise money for the Just Say Yes charity for children living with cancer. A most admirable endeavour.

I'm getting started on my parts of the write-up for a forthcoming issue of Powerplay, but had to speak up now and say thanks to everyone, the bands, the crowd and that hugely dedicated crew, for another weekend that I'll never forget. The melodic rock scene is very much alive, and I can't help but feel that FireFest is its heart and soul.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

FIREFEST 2011 - TIME TO ROCK AGAIN!


FIREFEST 2011 kicks off on Friday night, and I'm thrilled to be attending as part of the POWERPLAY ROCK AND METAL MAGAZINE contingent of hacks. The bill looks amazing again, and even though  Saturday's headliners WARRANT pulled out (for no clear reason that I can find) it's going to be an amazing weekend of melodic rock.

Last year's event was one of the greatest musical experiences of my life, and I can't wait to get through Rock City's doors and amongst likeminded people again. If you're a Powerplay reader, come over and say hello!

I'm stoked to see Jimi Jamison again, along with Serpentine, W.E.T,  Terry Brock, Steve Augeri and everyone else. Ladies and Gents, it's time to rock once again. Here's to an amazing event - see you there!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Revisiting Yourself


I don't often write personal posts here, but...

It's late. My girlfriend is asleep. I was out cold earlier, but now I'm awake and typing nonsense. I'm listening to the songs that defined me 5-10 years ago (and a few from a bit further back), and these tunes are bringing back a flood of memories that are at once infuriating and fascinating. I was a mess a few years ago.

Several very bad decisions led to me having a very strange life indeed, which in turn resulted in me being royally f**ked up for years. I don't mean in the sense of drink (I barely do), drugs (I never have) or criminality (nope), rather in the sense of being a breathing bundle of turbulence. I was perpetually stressed, perpetually tired, very pale and always ill.

Something changed along the way, and I set about putting the fallout of those bad decisions right. Now I have found myself pretty close to being the man I aways wished I could be. At a very base level there was an attitude change, a snapping from one state to another, which enabled me to think 'F**k this' and start sorting my life out.

Revisiting yourself, while sometimes disturbing and upsetting, is a good thing. Remind yourself of how far you have come, and also how far you have yet to go. Remember those dreams you had? Those hopes? They haven't died with the passing of the years. They're still there. You're just not listening to them any more.

I say listen, and listen good.

Friday, 14 October 2011

FREE HALLOWEEN HORROR SHORT STORY: UNDEAD AND BURIED

For the run up to Halloween, I decided to write a new short story to give away for free as an ebook, and here it is. Think of it as an early Halloween treat. The story is called UNDEAD AND BURIED and is available to down load for FREE by right-clicking on the cover image below and saving the file. The story is a fun little horror tale which is ideal for this season, but I hope it can be read at any time of the year.



If you like the story (and I hope that you do), I'd appreciate it if you told other people about this freebie and indeed my other fiction. So share it with your likeminded friends at your will! You're welcome to link them to this post or just send them the ebook directly.

WARNING: 'Undead and Buried' is NOT suitable for young readers.

Happy (early) Halloween everyone!


Tuesday, 11 October 2011

AVENGERS TRAILER ARRIVES: CHRISTMAS COMES EARLY

I just watched the new, proper first trailer for Marvel Studios' THE AVENGERS, the team-up movie that geeks have been waiting years for, and am absolutely thrilled. From the characters, the snippets of dialogue, the action and everything else up to the use of a Nine Inch Nails track as the trailer music, it's all falling into place to be the greatest superhero movie ever made, and certainly the best yet from Marvel Studios.

 I had my concerns a while back that the involvement of Joss Whedon would make the film a bit too jokey, but now I wonder what the hell I was on, as it's pitch perfect. Of course, Whedon is experienced already with the team-based film, following the big screen adaptation of his TV series Firefly, namely the ever-wonderful SERENITY (as well as the show itself and that other thing he did about some girl that killed vampires. 'Tutfy' or something).

 Unfortunately due to the fact that the film is still being made and most effects shots are yet to be put in place, the trailer is completely devoid of any glimpse of the Skrulls, the legendary green-skinned Marvel villains who are said to be in cahoots with Tom Middleton's Loki (as seen recently in the gloriously daft THOR movie).

 Still, the trailer looks and sounds brilliant, and it does seem to be the case that at long last we will get the definitive Marvel movie. Man, a few years ago I would have laughed in your face if you'd told me there would not only be an AVENGERS film, but it would have the potential to be so utterly brilliant. Assemble!

You can find the trailer for Marvel Studios' THE AVENGERS over at the Avengers movie page from Apple.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

On The Passing of Steve Jobs


I've waited a few days to write about the passing of Steve Jobs for a couple of reasons. Firstly I wanted the frenzy of content regarding this sad loss to pass a little, and secondly I wasn't sure exactly what to write about a man that has indirectly had such an effect on my life, as he did with so many others. I wrote a quick post when the news of his death was released, but I never posted it. It didn't seem the right thing to do.

I never knew the guy. I never met him. I only ever saw him in the media and via the Apple keynote videos, and yet the devices he helped to bring to the masses and his work ethic and sense of innovation changed the way I think and work myself.

I first became aware of him, and indeed Apple, when I was recording music with my old band. We always used Apple computers in the studio, and they always seemed to be light years ahead of anything else I'd used. My old bandmate, Alastair, started to convert me to the ways of Apple and before I knew it I owned an iPod and my first Mac.

As I write this, on an Apple computer and using other Apple devices every day, I can't help but think of the legacy Jobs has left behind. There is no denying that his drive and eye for innovation has changed the consumer technology market, and indeed the way we live our lives, but I also find that Jobs himself had a hugely inspirational quality.

He was a gifted orator, yes, but his outlook and his constant drive towards higher quality and better technology also spilled over into promoting a better way of thinking in your life. There are some incredible quotes from Steve's speeches circulating right now, and all of them are uplifting, inspirational and aspirational.

There's nothing wrong with wanting better for yourself and from the things that help you live your life. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to great things. That's what I get myself from the legacy of Steve Jobs. I want to do more. Be better than I am. Go further. I want to be thrilled by what the future can bring, and in turn I want to bring my own contribution to the future that I can be proud of.

Steve Jobs transformed technology during his career, but he did something much more fundamental than that. He showed us what people are capable of with only ingenuity and determination as their tools. Thanks, Steve.

I'll end with a piece of one of his most famous quotes:


“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

R.I.P, Steve. You were one of a kind.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Amanda Somerville Interview Coming Soon!


Tonight I had the pleasure of interviewing vocalist extraordinaire Amanda Somerville regarding the debut from her TRILLIUM project. Her voice has been heard the world over with acts such as Avantasia, Kamelot, Kiske/Somerville and her hugely popular stint fronting EPICA while Simone was sick a while back. Amanda was an absolute delight to talk to and was wonderfully enthusiastic and friendly.

I've started on the transcription now, and ever an edit and a polish it will soon be winging its way to you in Powerply Rock and Metal magazine. The Trillium album, to be released in November, is an absolute MUST BUY for any fan of Amanda's rock/metal work or her more pop-oriented solo material.

Fans of After Forever, ReVamp, Epica, Stream of Passion, Tarja Turunen, We Are The Fallen and the like are going to love it. Here's the preview video from Frontiers Records:

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Doctor Who: 'The Wedding Of River Song' – Moffat, you rogue!


So the moment we Whovians have been craving since April has finally arrived. Questions are answered, jaws are left agape, the show is transformed again and fans are left with the task of mopping up their own minds after having them well and truly blown. What a way to end a series.

As with the finale to series 5 ('The Big Bang'), this final twist in a very twisty series of Doctor Who is again a little small scale aside from a few of the effects shots, but as always with Moffat era Doctor Who, it's the ideas that are truly epic in scale. You really don't need endless visual bluster when you have stories this well realised.

The Silence are back, and how! The answers to the mystery of River Song are finally all cleared up (or are they?). The Doctor must face his death, or must he? It's a great episode, and while it would have been lousy as a standalone story, as the end to a spectacularly high quality series, it's spot on.

It makes me very happy indeed as a Doctor Who fan that the show is going from strength to strength since it returned to our screens in 2005, and it continues to fascinate, frustrate, entertain and enchant myself and millions of other people.

Of course, it has its detractors, complaining it's either too dark or too complicated, but these are issues that can easily be remedied by sitting down and WATCHING IT. Put down your phones, sign out of Twitter and PAY ATTENTION. Otherwise you'll miss some of the greatest television this country has seen since, well, since the previous series of Doctor Who last year.

Now we have to deal with not only the usual bout of post-Doctor Who depression (mainly me wailing that I'll never be of the same standard as its writers and why must fate mock me thus, etc), but also a wait of several months until we are blessed with the Christmas special. Mr Moffat, you rogue, you don't half know how to tease us sir. Oh, and BTW – Congrats to River Song on the happy occasion!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Review: FREAKS by Tess Gerritsen

This short story is available as a free download from the iBooks store via your IOS devices, and features the two characters that Tess is known for the best, namely Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles.

Freaks is a fun read for existing fans, but it's not perfect. There are glimmers of the characters we know and love, but the limited length of the piece doesn't leave room for more than broad strokes. The plot is different for a Gerritsen tale, and does suit the short form very well.

 It reads a little like a YA story and ends rather abruptly, but hey, it's a free Tess Gerritsen story and as such it should be enjoyed. A nice, quick read. Read the novels - they're excellent!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

New Amazon Kindles! Oh, The Shiny Ones Are Only In The US...

Amazon have unveiled their four (yup, FOUR) new versions of their hit e-reader the Amazon Kindle, and each model is remarkably attractive. The regular Kindle has had a makeover and is now a much more sleek device, while the new Touch and Touch 3G offer Multitouch and the best e-ink displays yet. The Kindle Fire is the device that a lot of people have been waiting for the most, with its colour display, the ability to play TV shows and films, games and apps as well as reading magazines and books as before. 

The part I find most interesting though is Amazon's own browser, Amazon Silk, which I'm hearing very good things about. With fast processors and the option of cloud storage, it's going to be interesting to see how this tablet is received and how it evolves in the years to come.

Sadly, while these four new Kindles are soon to be available across America, only the low-end basic Kindle is available to the rest of us. I understand that the units will eventually find their way to the UK and elsewhere in the World That Isn't America (hey there USA! Remember us?), but in the meantime we are out of the loop.

This is irksome for those of us who would like to have a play with the new gadgets, but it's also annoying in the sense that one territory is not an accurate gauge of how an item will sell elsewhere. Why not roll them out worldwide, albeit in smaller numbers outside of US territories? Ah, who am I yelling at? I just want to play with the new toys, and see what my books look like on the new screens.

Incidentally, feel free to let me know!

Powerplay 136 out this week!

Powerplay 136, my 40th published issue as a writer for the magazine, is out this week! Featuring my interview with Amy Lee of Evanescence and my best reviews yet, I'm thrilled that's it's heading towards the shelves. Here's to another forty issues!

To whet your appetite for my interview with Amy, here's the latest Evanescence video from their new self-titled album!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

FOR THE FALLEN - Cover shoot done!


The cover shoot for my next book, FOR THE FALLEN, happened on Monday here in Nottingham. Featuring cover model Kelly Purdy in costume as Lisa, the character whose physical description I based on her, the cover photos were shot by the creative powerhouse that is Christopher Dowson, who is now editing and sorting through the forty photos that were shot in order to pick the final two for the front and back covers of the new book.

Pictured above is a phone-cam photo from during the shoot, where I got a strange opportunity to be photographed *with* one of my characters! The shoot was great fun to observe, and I have already seen some early edits of the photos and can confirm it's going to look fantastic.

Chris will also be overseeing a revamp of the previous book, DEAD THING, and the final book in the series which will be announced properly soon! FOR THE FALLEN is another standalone horror novella, but it also serves as a direct sequel to DEAD THING and the central part of THE OTHERSIDE TRILOGY.

More news on this very, very soon!

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – New Trailer Shows Almost The Whole Movie


Aw man, now I have even less reason to go and see the pointless David Fincher-helmed remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Billed as an adaptation of the book rather than a remake of the original Swedish film adaptation, it somehow manages to show off pretty much the whole film in a needlessly lengthy three and a half minutes of running time.

Where are the enticing slivers of mystery? The tantalizing glimpses of much loved characters? Where's the excitement? Where, basically, is Noomi Rapace? I am sure Rooney Mara has done herself proud with her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander, David Fincher has done a good job and Daniel Craig doesn't crack a smile for two hours, but I still don't see the point.

This film is surplus to requirements, and no matter how good it is (if indeed it's any good at all), it'll never be able to shake comparisons to the Swedish film. Anyway, who needs to even goo and see it now? This trailer will tell you almost everything you need to know anyway...

View the lengthy new trailer for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo


Facebook's Facelift Has Gone All Wrong

I'm addicted to Facebook, this is common knowledge, but the latest batch of changes is sending even me up the bloody wall in paroxysms of apoplectic rage. The changes, which (as ever) you can't opt-out of, have turned our already botched feeds into the social media version of the Bloomberg TV channel. Information overload ahoy!

These changes have certainly angered a lot of people, and confused even more. This does happen every time Facebook changes in any way, but this time it seems that maybe the changes have been taken too far. The timeline was already a mess, but now it's pretty much unmanageable unless you mess about for hours putting people into lists.

The thing is, this current issue with Facebook is pretty much exactly what happened to Myspace before its bubble burst. It became too complicated, too confusing and too unpleasant to use, and thus people flocked elsewhere. Myspace started trying to put Facebook-style bells and whistles onto their established methods of communication, but the ship had already sailed and users left the site by the million.

Now we have Facebook apparently doing the same thing. The 'Lists' are basically FB's answer to Google+ circles (only far more irritating to manage), the 'Subscriptions' option is FB attempting to integrate their own version of Twitter, the live feed in the corner of the page basically looks like a TweetDeck feed, and on the whole the site is looking too busy while being incredibly hard to use now.

FB and sites of its ilk should be accessible by the millions of people who aren't particularly computer literate (or indeed give a toss about anything but staying in touch with their friends in a very direct manner), and not overwhelm the audience with information that people don't really need as part of their experience. The thing is, even though we're all complaining about it, we'll all still be using it. We need our fix, don't we? However, I do have a remedy for your distaste with the new Facebook layout:

Step One: -go to Google+

Step Two: -sign up

Step Three: -enjoy

Problem?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Getting Mum Online


"Is this the ON switch?"

Hear my cry, dear reader. I am introducing my mum to the internet, bit by bit. My dear old mum has always maintained that she's not used much else other than her TV ever since I moved out of home back in the mists of time, and thus getting her used to the online world is proving to be something of an adventure and a challenge.

She is hugely intelligent and eager to learn, which is helping a lot, but teaching her the basics of using the web is also bringing it home just how far we've all come in the last decade or so of the internet's existence. In fact, it's actually really difficult to try and put the basics into words for her now that so many aspects of operating online are now second nature to me.

Teaching her everything from scratch, right from turning the computer on, is helping me to appreciate just how complicated the internet seems to folks of another generation. It's not just the use of the machines and the web either, it's the things like 'Don't download anything ending with .exe', 'Don't pay any attention to emails from banks', 'Ignore the Nigerian prince offering you a million quid if you pass him your bank details,' and so on. No mum, I know you don't need Viagra. Just ignore the spam. Spam, mum. No, spam emails. Unsolicited messages. No, I don't know why it's called Spam off the top of my head. You get the idea.

She's showing some very good signs of getting the hang of it all, with comments like 'Oh, once I'm on that computer I don't want to come off it,' or 'where else can I find vouchers?' She has started to email me on occasion with questions too, as she just did half an hour ago. She wanted to know what the updates were that her computer was asking her to approve. Normally I'd get bored explaining that sort of thing but as she is so eager to learn that I'm more than happy to help.

This may wear thin as time goes on, but I'm thrilled that she is starting to see just how much can be done with an internet connection. Granted, I use my connection for procrastination as well as work, but it's awesome to see mum figuring out that a lot of the running around she does with one thing and another could be done so much quicker and easier online. Bills, shopping, keeping in touch, banking and so on are all about to change for her, and I'm really kinda proud of the fact that she's trying to embrace what to her is brand new technology. Go on mum. Get stuck in. I'm rooting for ya, and you know where I am when you want to shout at Windows.

Some tips if you're in a similar situation with a friend or loved one:

-Don't rush them. Let them get to grips with things at their own pace . Don't try and explain the complexities of online culture before they know how to stay safe online.

-Teach the basics at first, from the absolute essentials upwards.

-Make sure you explain WHY things are a certain way, and why they need to be done a certain way. This is much more helpful than just telling a person to not do something. Back it up with a reason.

-Don't just skim over the basics. Think about the things you now do reflexively and explain them in detail so that they can make sense to the n00b.

-Don't call them n00bs. It's rude.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

ANNOUNCING 'THE OTHERSIDE TRILOGY'

The series that began with my novella 'DEAD THING' and which will continue soon with the sequel, 'FOR THE FALLEN', will now be known as THE OTHERSIDE TRILOGY. These three stories all stand alone as individual books, but together they form the OTHERSIDE TRILOGY, which will end with the epic third part, the title of which will be announced with the release of 'FOR THE FALLEN'.

Encompassing horror, dark fantasy and a littel science fiction, the Otherside trilogy is a work I am extremely proud of and which I hope will help to get word out that I can be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to dark fiction. I hope you enjoy the whole trilogy, and if you haven't checked out DEAD THING yet, do so quick!

You can also 'Like' the official page for the Otherside Trilogy (previously the DEAD THING page) on Facebook at the following link: THE OTHERSIDE TRILOGY by Andrew Hawnt 


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Hellraiser: Revelations – I know It's Rubbish, But I Still Want To See It


Look, I am fully aware that the latest cheapo Hellraiser sequel, HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS is an atrociously bad film, that Doug Bradley refused to be a part of, that Clive Barker has ranted about, that the horror community has torn to pieces, but... I still want to see it. I can't help it. I've liked seven of the nine there have been so far, disliked one and haven't seen the new one, and while I agree the quality has plummeted ever since the heights of Hellraiser II: Hellbound, I have a soft spot for Cenobites.

I just know that no matter how much people slag off Revelations (hell, I've been joining in after seeing the woeful trailer), I'll end up slipping it into my player one day and watching the whole thing. I can't not. I'm a sucker, and Dimension know it. I guess, aside from my completist streak, that I'm curious about it.

I'm curious to see just what a Hellraiser movie which has been made solely to hold onto the license is like. The tiny budget and laughable shooting schedule for the film speaks volumes about the quality (or lack thereof), but if you'll pardon the pun, I'm hooked. I think I'll watch it and then put the original on immediately afterwards to make things all better again. What's your pleasure, sir? Probably not Hellraiser: Revelations, judging by the reaction of people so far...

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Come Dine With Me: Televisual Crack

Okay, I've bitched about bad TV plenty on here and elsewhere in my time as a pop culture hack for many years, but there is one bit of reality TV that never fails to hold my attention, and I need help with my addiction. It's simple. 'Come Dine With Me' is televisual crack.

From the man who stuck a fat guy in a pig mask to the girl who filled a trifle with sausages (both of which are REAL, and not the product of my fevered imagination), the contestants are a procession of maniacs, snobs and freaks with a sprinkling of normal people. The premise of following a bunch of people through the creation, execution and aftermath of dinner parties is both inspired and achingly simple, as are many of the best ideas. Mayhem, arguing, backstabbing and bad food ensues, all while contestants try to get each other drunk enough to give high scores.

Of course, it wouldn't be anywhere near as gloriously naff/fun without the godlike narration of Dave Lamb, a man with a delivery so delightful that he'll certainly make your souffle rise. A stream of puns, jokes, screaming and mockery pours forth into his microphone, giving the show the commentary track we all wish we were witty enough to do ourselves.

A favourite game that myself and my lady play while watching it is to come up withh the maddest things we would serve if we went on there. My own favourite is my bellowed suggestion of 'MASH IN A BOOT!' while my lady suggests a Pot Noodle and crisps followed by half a custard cream marinated in a fat man's arse crack. Yum.

Then of course there's the unveiling of the winner, during which we all watch the losers squirm and force themselves to congratulate whoever has bagged the lovingly fanned-out prize money whilst mouthing the word 'bastard' and hoping they were out of shot. Come Dine With Me is such a simple recipe, but the execution of the show is anything but just pub grub.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Ethereal Tales: New Story In Final Issue


A new short story of mine, 'And With That Breath, I Was Gone', is to be featured in the forthcoming twelfth and final issue of Ethereal Tales Magazine. Way back in 2008 it was Ethereal Tales that first published my story 'The Last Mage', for which I remain extremely grateful. The theme of this final issue is 'Endings' and as such I wrote and submitted a story that is very ethereal indeed, and rather creepy to boot ;) It's sad to see a fiction magazine come to an end, but I'm proud to be part of its legacy at the beginning and the end. I wish its editor and contributors all the best for the future!

New Amazon Tablet Coming? So It Seems

So TechCrunch have reported (and have also supplied a mock-up)that a new Amazon tablet is on the way. It'll apparently be called... the Amazon Kindle. Immediately this makes me wonder two things: What will happen for users of the countless Kindles that are already in existence, and also what changes people like me will have to make when formatting content for the device.

As a couple of rather more tech-savvy friends have suggested to me, there may well be no changes needed to older titles and the formatting of ebooks and suchlike may not change all that much. The reported amazon Kindle tablet will feature a colour display, multitouch and an OS based on Android, but the whole experience will be very much based around Amazon itself, including an Amazon web browser.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about this tablet if it's the real thing, as it appears to be the next phase in the burgeoning tablet market. It's set to be cheaper than the entry level iPad, but will it have anywhere near as much functionality? Will it be a strong alternative to the iPad for many users? I love my iPad, but will certainly be reading up on this new device should it be genuine.

Right now is a fascinating time for mobile technology, and with the market being flooded (and in the case of the HP Touchpad, purged) with products at varying prices, I think that we'll see some whittling down of devices to a core of big-sellers and entry level options. The good thing is, folks like me will have an even more interesting market to peddle our wares upon.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

LOST IN THE MULTIPLEX: Now featuring me ;)

The fast-rising film and film culture site LOST IN THE MULTPLEX now has a new addition to their growing team of geeks who hit keys- me! I'm thrilled to be back in the realm of pop culture journalism, especially for such an awesome site. My first three pieces for the site have gone live this week. You can find them at the links below.

The Perfect Seat In The Perfect Row

Marvel Confirms Doctor Strange Movie Going Ahead

Ghostbusters 3 - Developments At Last?

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Doctor Who - “Let's Kill Hitler” Makes Me Want To Quit

This evening I, along with millions of others, watched the return of Doctor Who to our screens after the show's mid-series break. I loved the episode, maybe not as much as Neil Gaiman's immaculate episode 'The Doctor's Wife', but I still loved it massively. The problem was that as it ended, I was left with a sense of horror and realisation. It was then that I realised there are levels of writing, standards of quality, that I will never achieve, no matter how hard I try.

In effect, it kinda made me want to quit this writing lark altogether.

I get this feeling now and again, when I enjoy something so much that it feels like I'm wasting my time trying to do anything as good, but still I plough on. I'll probably continue to plough on until something comes along that floors me enough to actually have me wipe my drives of every bit of nonsense I've ever tried to string together, but until then I'll keep on trying.

I guess I'm my own worst critic, as my readers seem to enjoy the things I do, be it journalism or fiction, but my internal critic won't shut the hell up. This may be a good thing as it means I always have an eye on quality, but it's also holding me back from just enjoying what I do.

The work of Stephen Moffat with this series of Doctor Who is astounding. The twists, the character interplay, the massive ideas told via relatively small-scale means, the glorious use of language and tension, the huge SF scope, it's gorgeous, and hugely humbling to someone trying to figure out how to make sentences sound good.

I know I'll never be a brilliant writer. I just want to be a good one. Or, at least, good enough.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

40 issues with POWERPLAY!

I'm currently writing material for my 40th issue as a part of the team behind POWERPLAY ROCK AND METAL MAGAZINE, and am still having just as much fun (if not even more) than I always have while working for such a great magazine. Making this landmark issue even more special for me, I have been lucky enough to conduct my biggest interview yet, with one of the most famous rock vocalists in the world...


AMY LEE of EVANESCENCE. I talked to her about the new, self-titled Evanescence album, and you will be able to read that interview in my 40th issue with the magazine, namely issue 136. This will be on sale at the end of September. She was a delight to talk to, and every Evanescence fan is going to love the new album, as will new listeners.

I'd like to thank the readers old and new as well as my colleagues for 40 issues of musical mayhem. Here's to another 40!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

How Social Media Gave Me More Privacy

I'm pretty frank when it comes to my online presence. I'm on several major social networking sites and participate in a great deal of social media's addictive methods of wasting my days on this planet, but while traditional media (and indeed a considerable proportion of the populace) are convinced that we have lost our privacy, I feel like I personally have gained more.

A few years ago (It might as well be centuries in internet time), back when Myspace was just about to become massive, myself and pretty much everyone I knew at the time were highly active on LiveJournal. We would pour out our innermost feelings to the world at large, close friends and custom groups. For paragraph upon paragraph we would let it all out to anyone and everyone.

It was the same on other blogging platforms at the time, but as social networking sites grew and surpassed the blogging platforms in terms of users, the art of the lengthy blog post seems to have been fading away. I'm certainly telling people less. Sure, I write here, for a massively popular horror site, a national magazine, my movie/geek site and lots more alongside my Tweets, FB statuses and so on, but I honestly believe that I am now a far more private person.

Where once I would let out a tirade against the injustices I faced at work, at home and in life in general, now I will put up a Tweet or a status about building a bookcase or eating some Ben & Jerry's (as I have today). While I do still pour my heart out on occasion, I have found that the innermost workings of my mind now remain private.

This is probably a good thing for the sanity of my friends and family, in all honesty. Seriously though, I think that in some ways we now have a great deal more privacy than a lot of people give us credit for. If you want more privacy online, then don't say so much. Say what you need to. talk about the things that you have a passion for, discuss the world at large, current affairs, celebrity hairstyles, whatever, but spare a thought for your future and hold back on telling the world absolutely everything. You may well grow to regret it.

Mind you, having said that, I kinda miss those days sometimes. Now, the stuff on my mind tends to stay there. Ah well, I'll go and post a link to a Failblog page and try to forget about it...

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Review: ANGELSPIT (+Dirty K/Cease2xist) @ Corporation, Sheffield 5/8/11

It's been a while since I visited the Corporation nightclub back in my home town of Sheffield, and it was pleasant to revisit the sticky floor and the lack of oxygen for a night of mayhem. After catching up with old friends from my days hanging around the Sheffield dark alternative scene, the lights went down and the stomping began.

DIRTY K
Right, I don't generally like this brand of Industrial music that much, but Dirty K's own brand of hugely danceable noise was great fun. Mixing elements of pure Industrial, hard dance music and powernoise, this UK duo laid down a breathless set of rhythms, samples and infectious, bouncy electronics that rapidly warmed up the jaded Corp crowd. Not an act I'd choose to listen to anywhere but in a live situation, but definitely an act who are building a reputation on their talent rather than any gimmicks.

CEASE2XIST
Shrewsbury's Cease2xist are up next, and the three-piece band are a fantastic proposition live, demonstrating a massive amount of energy and conviction. Their take on harsh Industrial (with an almost inaudible guitar thanks to a typically muffled Corporation small-room mix) is punchy and stompy in all the right places, but it's very, well, 2002. As their set progresses, I have to wonder how many 3ulogy gigs they went to back in the day, as they sound almost exactly like that act (now split, which gave rise to the bands NEKRO DRAKO and PR0T0TYPE) did during their time together. A chaotic cover of 'I wanna be your dog' is fun, but it's their own material that has more punch.

ANGELSPIT

It's been four years since I last saw Australian cyberpunks Angelspit play live, and was hoping that the wait would be worth it. Thankfully it was, and despite a lengthy quiet period a couple of tracks in due to a tech issue, the band (now at four members instead of the duo of yore) laid waste to the small room's tiny stage in fine style (despite the ludicrous heat).

Vocalists/Electronics manipulators DESTROYX (aka cult fashion designer Amelia Arsenic) and ZOOG VON ROCK (aka “Caaarl!” as he introduced himself to me in a broad Aussie accent afterwards) are massively energetic throughout the hour-long set, never missing a beat of their rapid-fire lyrics (or indeed the fx-laden vocal sections that require them to switch very quickly to other mics), while guitarist Valerie Gentile (The Brooklynite also known for her work with The Cruxshadows) and drummer Matt have brought a new vigour to the Angelspit live experience.

The transformation is amazing, with older material like 'Maggot' and 'Vena Cava' morphed into vicious and nasty punk assaults, finally bringing Angelspit's punk feel to the forefront. This is never more in evidence than during 'Wreak Havoc', which has gone from being a strong Industrial track to being a monstrously violent Cyberpunk anthem.

The band are clearly having a blast, and as the set progresses, they gather a fair few new fans if the response was anything to go by. I was down at the front for the whole show, and ended up dowsed in the bands' sweat from their furiously entertaining performance, during which other delights included 'Glitchbomb', 'Toxic Girl', 'Wolf', the powerful 'Fuck The Revolution' and more. The venue was left sweating and spent, as were the band, but all four members went straight from the last notes of the final track into signing autographs, chatting with fans and posing for pictures. I met each member in turn and was most pleased by how very friendly and accommodating they all are. Not an ego in sight. A perfect end to a great evening's entertainment.

Meeting ANGELSPIT: