game review: DRAGON’S DOGMA

Dragon's Dogma (2015)

Dragon’s Dogma (2015)

DRAGONS DOGMA
Developer: CAPCOM
Released: January 15th, 2016
Website: Official
Score: 4/9 Hammers

After finally having wandered onto PC after years of lonely console exclusivity years, Dragon’s Dogma is probably a little too late to take advantage of its audience. The kind of people who are going to buy it now, four years on, are the same people who’ll compare it to things like The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age Inquisition despite it being significantly older. Predictably, it doesn’t do all that well from that comparison.

The Witcher 3 was of such ludicrous quality that it practically reinvented the western PRG, and Dragon’s Dogma was part of the old guard it usurped to do so. Comparing the two almost seems like bullying, and certainly feels unnecessary.

So I’m going to resist the temptation. I don’t need to say which is the superior use for your money, but perhaps there’s some merit to Dragon’s Dogma anyway. After all, you’d think they wouldn’t bother to port a game four years late if they didn’t think it had something original to offer.
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BEORN – Time to Dare

Beorn - Time to dare (2015)

Beorn – Time to dare (2015)

BEORN
Album: Time to Dare
Released: October 30th, 2015
Label: Sound Age Productions
Website: Bandcamp
Score: 7/9 Hammers

My first impression of Beorn’s latest was a good one. Not because of their bizarre, music box-esque intro, but the album cover itself. There’s not a lot to be said against anyone with the pure obsidian grit to take a fucking galleon off a jump like it’s your dad’s Ford Mondeo. There’s the same kind of inventive recklessness you’ll immediately recognise in their music too.

Star Ocean starts like it was ripped straight from the heart of the nineties. A weird, almost techno intro that wouldn’t sound out of place drawing it’s rusty way out of an unmarked arcade cabinet, complete with the oooOOOOOH power up noise. What follows isn’t half so surprising; a thick and fast metal track that neither needed not entirely fits with the oddity of its first thirty seconds. Granted, the prog returns, dropping into the track every now and again with the subtlety of a chrome housebrick, and running the risk of muddying things. It’s not that I resent them blending musical styles, I honestly wish they would, instead it sounds like they’re just playing the two disparate elements over each-other, and it does neither any favors. Continue reading

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Comic Review: GRIMJACK Omnibus (1983 – 1985)

IDW PUBLISHING (2010) Omnibus Edition collecting the stories from Starslayer issues #10-17 and GrimJack issues #1-13, as originally published by First Comics between 1983 and 1985.

IDW PUBLISHING (2010) Omnibus Edition collecting the stories from Starslayer issues #10-17 and GrimJack issues #1-13, as originally published by First Comics between 1983 and 1985.

GRIMJACK
First Published: (Nov. 1983)First Comics / IDW Publishing
First Appearance: Starslayer #10
Published By: First Comics
Writers / Artists: John Ostrander and Timothy Truman
Score: 7/9 Hammers

I mean, who wouldn’t want to read a comic about a pan-dimensional detective mercenary swashbuckler. That shit sounds awesome. Grimjack was the name of a comic that got its start in the 1980’s by John Ostrander and Timothy Truman. Ostrander is known for his work outside of Grimjack, particularly his late 80’s run of Suicide Squad for DC Comics as well the more recent Star Wars Legacy comic from Dark Horse. Truman has, and is currently, writing the Dark Horse series for Conan and its many iterations. Before all of that however there was Grimjack and along with Ostrander’s work on Starslayer, Grimjack would be one of the oddest heroes in the far flung future.

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television review: BLACK SAILS [S3E01]

Black Sails (2016)

Black Sails (2016)

BLACK SAILS [S3E01]
Aired: January 23rd 2016
Produced By: Michael Bay
Directed By: Alik Sakharov
Starring: Toby Stephens, Hannah New, Luke Arnold
Website: IMDB

Score: 6/9 Hammers

Oh fuck, what in the hell happened during the last two seasons of Starz series Black Sails? Well, if you have just watched the previous two recently, this whole series is sending you 60 miles down a careening hill and you do not need a recap. If you are like me and it’s been a year since you sailed the high seas, the first 5 minutes of Season 3 is supposed to catch you up. Fuck, I am still lost. I am even going back through old reviews trying to refresh my memory of who is who, what is happening, and where the main plot ended. Let us start at the main prize, the Macguffin, of this whole series. This big fucking gold ship.

Black Sails follows the exploits of an ensemble of roguish characters ranging from devilish seafarers to less than savory scallywags residing in the Caribbean during the golden age of piracy. Through many plot lines, a Spanish treasure ship appears and is being sought after by many people, all with different intentions. As of Season 3, there are 15 regular characters on Black Sails and in 2 of those seasons they have covered enough ground for 6 seasons, or an entire series of novels. Jesus. Continue reading

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This Month in Bandcamp Power Metal [JAN]

Grimgotts / Lawrence's Creation / Ethereal Dawn

Grimgotts / Lawrence’s Creation / Ethereal Dawn

In an effort to keep up with power metal as much as other genres this year, I have decided to comb through Bandcamp each month and listen to a variety of albums pulled from it. It is my hope that by the end of this year I will reach some sort of opinion on the state of power metal. This will be, of course, subject to whether or not the album is on Bandcamp, which may only paint a select portrait but I can only do so much. In fact, Bandcamp power metal may be a smaller genre than power metal as a whole, full of unsigned and upcoming power metal albums that could be wholly different than the titans of the genre who may not even bother with the site. Perhaps we will find the next Blind Guardian or Stratovarius lying under these rocks. Similar to the Edward Robert Hughes painting seen to the right, magic and wonder could be hidden under rocks among quiet forests.

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game review: TOUKIDEN KIWAMI

Toukiden Kiwami (2015)

Toukiden Kiwami (2015)

TOUKIDEN KIWAMI
Developer: Rogue Factor
Released: November 19th, 2015
Website: Official
Score: 5/9 Hammers

Fun Fact: did you know that Christmas was originally a pagan holiday known as the winter solstice, where Germanic tribes would feast and orgy as tribute to the gods of games development in the hope that they would release some fucking videogames already?

It’s in deference to this ancient tradition that I’m reviewing Toukiden: Kiwami six months after it came out.

If I had to describe it in the shortest terms possible, I’d say it were Monster Hunter with all the atmosphere hacked off. Monster Hunter, for reference, is an expansive JRPG in which you control a small, eternally outmatched dude or dudette in their quest for the world’s fanciest outfit. Unfortunately for them, they were born into a world where the only way to acquire said outfit is to engage in repetitive battle with giant beasts until their bits fall off and you can craft a pair of sparkly trousers from their intestines. Despite the overlong fights and repetitive combat, Monster hunter is saved by its imaginative enemy design and consistent, well developed atmosphere.

So is Toukiden, except for the last bit.
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WITCHHELM – Jotunn

Witchhelm - Jotunn (2016)

Witchhelm – Jotunn (2016)

WITCHHELM
Album: Jotunn
Released: January 1st, 2015
Label: Independant
Website: Bandcamp
Score: 7/9 Hammers

The problem with Witchhelm is that they’re almost impossible to talk about. Not because of some bloody Mary style curse featuring the diseased leshen of their cover art, but because there’s very little that can be said for their music that won’t turn to bullshit on your tongue halfway through an album. Like chameleons in corpse paint, by the time you’ve finished describing what they are they’ve almost certainly become something else. Other than pointing out their proclivity for long, jazzy and ethereal metal, they’re don’t seem big fans of consistency.

The first impression is of the slow, melancholic throbbing of stoner/doom metal, and this certainly has some merit, but it isn’t born through. “Wytchcraft” begins with undulating, distant, echoed lyrics that are cut short in service to a thick, heavy riff that smacks of classic rock more than anything else. The build, lyrically and instrumentally, is a slow, aggressive one more befitting of Black Sabbath than anything more modern, and it’s this groove into which the rest of the 9 minute track falls. The whole thing bears a strong resemblance to a slower Sabbath track (“Mr Crowley” or “Diary of a Madman” come to mind) before uprooting again into some strange, almost circus style prog-esque nonsense. Then there’s Jazz, heavy and gothic metal before the end. What’s so enjoyable is this consistent feeling of dissonance and completion, as each bizarre step forward blends what came before. Continue reading

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Dungeon Synth Digest #7

Dungeon Synth Digest

Nord Frost / Iami / Magical Forest Tales / Mausolei

One of my dreams is to become an expert on dungeon synth, or at least talk about it enough that people think of me as an expert. you are here because someone, probably me, has talked enough about this strange little genre that at least enough interest has been piqued for further investigation. This genre was opened to me by the work of Erang and has led me into a magical world of fantastical ambient music and obsessed musicians who create worlds with sound and imagination. There are few musicians attached to this genre, and perhaps even fewer listeners, but I call this little hamlet home. I know some others do as well and everyday it seems that this small genre grows a little bit each day. It probably will never reach a point when dungeon synth is fully recognized but for its denizens who create and enjoy the modest material available means the world. Enjoy your stay here in my little cottage and please have some tea and while you sit by the fire.

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This Year in Dungeon Synth

Ted Nasmith -  Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor

Ted Nasmith – Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor

2015 was an important year for me, personally, since this was the time when I really fell head over heels for a style known as dungeon synth. If you have been reading my digests, interviews, and features regarding this genre, then you are already aware of my praise of this genre. If you are new here, then let me give you a condensed version of dungeon synth: a very small genre of mostly solo musicians making bedroom fantasy music on synth machines. There. Pretty simple right? Unfortunately this seemingly simple genre has a profound effect on interest and also possesses the capability of cornering interests for an entire year.

2015 was the year in which I found many dungeon synth musicians both current and past. Most of the records I have found range from 1995 to 2015. This list is my top 5 favorite dungeon synth releases of 2015, broken into the areas that I most enjoyed. This was not all of the dungeon synth material that was released in 2015, nor all that is currently available, rather it represents a good start in a journey that does not seem to be stopping anytime soon. Throughout many digests and interviews I have made mention that it is the escapism and dedication to craft which most interests me. Even with music without a dense fictional world attached, there exists in all of these a comfort in the music both made by the musicians and shared by its listeners. I wonder what 2016 is going to be like since I only really got started with dungeon synth halfway through the year. I am sure it will just be as ridiculous and magical as 2015.

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Hollywood Metal – Albums of the Year Selections


Kaptain Carbon

Mgla - Exercises In Futility (2015)

MGLA – Exercises In Futility (2015)

Runners up:
SULPHER AEON – Gateway to the Antisphere
BLIND GUARDIAN – Beyond the Red Mirror
LEVIATHAN – Scar Sighted
GHOST – Meliora


Luke Maudsley

Ghost - Meliora (2015)

GHOST – Meliora (2015)

Runners up:
AMIENSUS – Ascension
BEHOLD! THE MONOLITH – Architects of the Void
NHOR – Momenta Quintae Essentiae


Brendan Biryla

Ghost - Meliora (2015)

GHOST – Meliora (2015)

Runners Up:
AMORPHIS – Under the Red Cloud
BLIND GUARDIAN – Beyond the Red Mirror


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DUNGEON SYNTH DIGEST #6

Dungeon Synth Digest

Dungeon Lore Foundation: An Overview

One of my dreams is to become an expert on dungeon synth, or at least talk about it enough that people think of me as an expert. you are here because someone, probably me, has talked enough about this strange little genre that at least enough interest has been piqued for further investigation. This genre was opened to me by the work of Erang and has led me into a magical world of fantastical ambient music and obsessed musicians who create worlds with sound and imagination. There are few musicians attached to this genre, and perhaps even fewer listeners, but I call this little hamlet home. I know some others do as well and everyday it seems that this small genre grows a little bit each day. It probably will never reach a point when dungeon synth is fully recognized but for its denizens who create and enjoy the modest material available means the world. Enjoy your stay here in my little cottage and please have some tea and while you sit by the fire.

I have mentioned in a previous article that I acquired 62 releases from the Dungeon Lore Foundation (DLF), a Russian collective, for a very modest price of 15 dollars. If you are excited at all about dungeon synth, this is the proverbial treasure horde that lays at the end of a dark and winding cave. I could, of course, talk about every release in detail but that would put me here all year. I mean, really though, what else am I doing? Before I do that, I am discussing some of the more popular highlights from the DLF portfolio which could act as an overview for a collective with a massive catalog. Please allow this to act as an adventure hook into the wild word of Russian Dungeon Synth. If one is interested in these releases, they and many more can all be yours for a very small fee. During this holiday season, give the wonders of obscure electronic fantasy music to each and every person you love.

This article is continuing my journey into the world of dungeon synth. If you have arrived and need more context please visit our dungeon synth page. If you do not mind a bit of adventure, please by all means, continue into the dark.

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The Hollywood Metal Top 5 games of 2015


503261-wizards

It’s years end again; the days get shorter, the night gets longer, small gods the world over brace themselves for eternal night that’ll never come. It’s in the darkest part of the year, a grim reminder of why so many ancient religious picture the world falling to snow and ice rather than fire. As that snow falls and the world itself seems to die around us, we’re filled with that most human of needs: the need to blindly fantasize about the past and figure out which five games are adorning the bloodstained spike I call my Christmas tree this year. Without any real ado, here they are. Continue reading

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TRIDDANA – The Power & the Will

Triddana - The Power & the Will

Triddana – The Power & the Will

TRIDDANA
Album: The Power & The Will
Released: December 11th, 2015
Label: Power Prof Records
Website: Facebook
Score: 7/9 Hammers

Argentinian power folk. To someone new to the scene it might seem more a random collection of words than a descriptor, like tartan language potato or French military victory. The connections ain’t obvious. Thank the gods then for Triddana, the Argentinian power folk group who seem determined to teach the world that you don’t have to come from a country whose main exports are snow and beards to make some thunderous folk metal.

Musically, they lean harder on the bagpipes than any group outside the Scottish army. It’s a truly majestic instrument to be sure, but the price the bagpipes pay for being iconic is that they’re almost impossible to use with anything approaching subtlety. It says something about the instrument that Triddana barely use them, preferring the more traditional guitar, drums and vocals for the majority of their tracks and I still think of them reflexively as “the band with the bagpipes”. This is probably a disservice, considering just how many of their tracks are fast, unapologetically catchy and, though lyrically nothing complex, solid enough to get you banging your head to the drumbeat without any embarrassment. “The Snake and the Pit”, particularly is a solid piece of folk metal, with a good lyrical thread that wears its heart on its sleeve and brass on its knuckles, hitting hard if without much grace. “We rise higher and higher” makes a solid chorus for a track that’s thoroughly meat and potatoes. Solid folk metal to the core. Continue reading

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game review: MORDHEIM – City of the Dammned

Mordheim: City of the Dammned (2015)

Mordheim: City of the Dammned (2015)

MORDHEIM – City of the Dammned
Developer: Rogue Factor
Released: November 19th, 2015
Website: Official
Score: 7/9 Hammers

Mordheim is the latest in the seemingly endless parade of Games Workshop tie-ins that the recent Vermintide: End Times was part of, but while that game was an enjoyable tie-in that took full advantage of the setting without feeling held back by it, that’s an exception to the rule. More often than not they seem to be uninspired dross churned out by whichever studio was lucky enough to bump into GW in a bar while it was still on the rebound after the end of Relic studios. Almost all of them (come to think of it) especially the one that was just re-skinned chess.

More promising that that though is Mordheim, a turn-based strategy game based around the tabletop game of the same name. Set in the titular city of Mordheim, it revolves around the skirmish of four main factions; chaos possessed, skaven rat-men, human mercenaries and the sisters of Sigmar, a cult of warrior nuns that maraud the city like a cabal of violent Whoopi Goldbergs. Through various justifications, each group has the same ultimate mission, gather wyrdstone and kill their enemies. Surprisingly, in that order. Continue reading

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