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.