Review Nox Aeterna – The Desperation Deal

Nox Aeterna - The Desperation Deal (2015)

Nox Aeterna – The Desperation Deal (2015)

NOX AETERNA
Album: The Desperation Deal
Released: Febuary 28th 2015
Label: N/A
Website: Official
Score: 7/9 Hammers

Nox Aeterna is many things; an ancient Latin curse, a horror mod for Half-Life 2 and Morgoth’s favorite party trick. And now, with their latest album “Desperation Deal”, I know they’re a Dutch melodo-death metal band too. This means, of course, that “Desperation Deal” is pretty much their first impression. It’s also a concept album, which endeared them to me immediately. Any band willing to put out something as weird and niche as a concept album is clearly somebody to watch, if not for their talent and confidence then because it never serves to take your eyes off a maniac.

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game review: TOTAL WAR: ATTILA

Total War ; Attila (2015)

Total War : Attila (2015)

TOTAL WAR: ATTILA
Developer: The Creative Assembly
Released: Febuary 17th, 2015
Website: Official

Score: 8/9 Hammers

When I first heard Attila was coming out only a year after Rome 2, I sensed trouble. After Rome 2’s troubled launch, another rushed production seemed like the last thing the series needed.

Thankfully, that isn’t what it got.

It stands on Rome 2’s shoulders, which is something of a mixed blessing. On one hand this means they haven’t changed the game enough from last year’s to break it, meaning it runs well and with few bugs, on the other though, it feels awfully similar to its predecessor at times, depending on who you choose to play as. This is the same world, same engine, and mostly the same factions, meaning at times it feels like little more than a time-jump, beginning at the end of the Roman Empire rather than the beginning. Other than a couple of game-play tweaks (that veterans might recognise from the original Rome’s expansion “Barbarian Kingdoms”) it doesn’t do a whole lot to convince that it’s its own game, rather an expansion pack that got cocky. It feels a little light on content, too. No doubt this will be resolved with paid DLC, but considering how soon it still is since Rome 2 decided to see just how little I’d still pay full price for, asking full price for something so empty just a year later takes so much piss I have to assume they’re working on a ritual to summon a urine demon behind the scenes. Just like last time, the pricing strategy is the first obvious mistake. Continue reading

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review: MOONSPELL – Extinct

Moonspell - Extinct (2015)

Moonspell – Extinct (2015)

MOONSPELL
Album: Extinct
Released: March 6th 2015
Label: Napalm Records
Website: Facebook
Score: 7/9 Hammers

“Huginn’s talon, what the fuck is that?” isn’t what I said when I first saw Moonspell’s album cover, but I wish it were. It would have been somewhat more eloquent than what I actually said, but since there’s no way of anyone but my neighbor’s dog knowing what that was, I’m going to keep it to myself. What I will tell you is that Moonspell is one of Portugal’s biggest heavy metal bands. Which doesn’t sound like much until you realize it’s been twenty years since these guys failed to get into the top 100 charts in Germany, which is like being one of the hundred bawdiest Vikings. Germans typically know quality, except for one curious, David Hasselhoff-shaped blind spot.

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review: SVARTSOT – Vaeldet

Svartsot - Vaeldet (2015)

Svartsot – Vaeldet (2015)

SVARTSOT
Album: Vaeldet
Released: Febuary 20th 2015
Label: Of Wood And Iron productions/Nail Records
Website: Official
Score: 7/9 Hammers

Svartsot are a Danish folk metal Band formed in 2005 who are most notable for their solid, if formulaic, 2010 album “Mulmet’s Viser” and the fact that their promo photos all look like cover shots for a medieval Calvin Klein beard catalogue. They’re not known, perhaps unfairly, for their surprisingly heavy and festive “Maledictus Eris”, partially because they’re something of an under-reported band and partially because Spotify seems to have bizarrely mistaken it for Skull Fist’s “Head of the Pack,” meaning you’ll have to hunt it down elsewhere.

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metal history: CHARLES XII OF SWEDEN

Onward Caroleans! The enemy is here! Crush them! Throw them through the gates of Hell!

Onward Caroleans! The enemy is here! Crush them! Throw them through the gates of Hell!

CHARLES XII OF SWEDEN
Source: Wikipedia
Key Dates: April 1697 – Nov 1718

History is filled with tons of drama, blood, gore, and probably more blood. It is no wonder that heavy metal draws on history as inspiration for some of the greatest songs of all time. I can really only highlight one example, but suffice to say, history is filled with badasses, archvillians, and crazy stories. Just turn a Ken Burn’s documentary on and crank up the tunes!

Sabaton’s sixth record, Carolus Rex, was released in 2012 and told various stories of Swedish military history from around 1600-1750. One of the major stories involves Carolus Rex, better known as Charles XII or Sweden’s badass teen king. So, after ascending the throne following his father’s death, Charles found himself the really young king of a country. Because of this, a bunch of countries surrounding Sweden decided to try and bully their way onto his land. Charles decided that wasn’t happening and fought back sending his hard boot into the face of Denmark, Russia, and Poland. No one expected him to win let alone start putting his people on their thrones. Charles would eventually fall in Russia, because that land is unconquerable, and then make some enemies in the Ottoman empire during an exile. That eventually lead to his death via gunshot to the head in 1718. Charles would die at 36, which was ten years younger than his father, but good goddamn what a fireball!

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game review: BLACKGUARDS 2

Blackguards 2 (2015)

Blackguards 2 (2015)

BLACKGUARDS 2
Developer: Deadalic Entertainment
Released: January 20nd 2015
Website: Official

Score: 7/9 Hammers

Blackguards 2 is (obviously) the sequel to Blackguards, a game I know absolutely nothing about despite Steam’s insistence that I spent 15 hours with it. Honestly, I remember writing the review to it with greater detail that any part of playing the game itself, which in a way says everything I need to know about how good it was. I do remember it reminding me of Banner Saga.

Blackguards 2 reminds me of something else entirely.

It’s the tale of a woman, cast from a life of power and luxury and betrayed by a man she trusted and now on a quest to retake what was once hers with an army of weird mercenaries, a close group of advisors and heroes and a fierce, almost lunatic desire to watch her foes burn. It’s a story that might look a little familiar at the moment considering it feels more like a Game of Thrones rpg than the Game of Thrones rpg, albeit one in which Daenerys Targaryen is a deformed monster rather than a sparkly wonderkid.

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review: ENSLAVED – In Times

Enslaved - In Times (2015)

Enslaved – In Times (2015)

ENSLAVED
Album: In Times
Released: March 6th, 2015
Label: Nuclear Blast
Website: Official
Score: 6/9 Hammers

I imagine am going to be slightly unpopular with two groups in saying that I have a hard time believing that Enslaved is not a logical substitution for the progressive hard rock band Tool. In absence of Tool’s newest album, I would think that the progressive and meditative aspects of Enslaved would compliment a person’s desire for metaphysical metal/rock. Again, I could be slightly unpopular if Tool fans think there is no substitute for their favorite band or Enslaved fans think I am wrong for comparing their favorite to Tool. There really is no good way of putting this into my review so I am going to settle for it being the first paragraph in italics.

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film review: HERCULES IN THE VALLEY OF WOE [Maciste contro Ercole nella valle dei guai] (1961)

Hercules in the Valley of Woe (1961)

Hercules in the Valley of Woe (1961)

HERCULES IN THE VALLEY OF WOE
Released: 1961
Directed By: Mario Mattoli
Starring: Kirk Morris, Franco Franchi, Ciccio Ingrassia
Website: IMDB
Score: 2/9 Hammers

I am glad you have traveled with me this far. I understand that sticking with certain film series can be trying especially when things get really bad. The 40’s monster rally series was also poorly done, but not like this. The 60’s Italian sword and sandal craze started out decent enough, but quickly plummeted into abysmal quality. If previous entries can be surrendered to cheesy escapism, the 7th entry in the Hercules series is one of the most disposable and needless developments the genre has ever seen. I may be wrong about this, but it is hard to think of any movie less deserving of screen time than Hercules in the Valley of Woe.

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film review: HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD [Ercole al centro della terra] (1961)

Hercules in the Haunted World (1961)

Hercules in the Haunted World (1961)

HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD [Ercole al centro della terra]
Released: 16 November 1961
Directed By: Mario Bava
Starring: Reg Park, Christopher Lee, Leonora Ruffo
Website: IMDB
Score: 6/9 Hammers

As we approach the fourth Peplum review it is important to note that we will be skipping in continuity. I understand that the adventures of Hercules, played by different actors and with non connecting storylines, may already feel disconnected, but for the sanctity of criticism we will mention the break in sequence. Ercole al Centro della Terra, translated Hercules in the Center of the Earth but for some reason titled, Hercules in the Haunted World, is the 6th film released in the Hercules series. Our hero is played by another bodybuilder, Reg Park, who already debuted in Hercules and the Captive Women. I understand how skipping this could anger some purists, since they would like to have seen Park’s debut with the captive women, but because these films are often hard to find, we will be moving on. Plus, who couldn’t be excited for Hercules facing off against foes of the underworld?

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Television Review: BLACK SAILS [S2 E2-E4]

Black Sails (2014)

Black Sails (2014)

BLACK SAILS [S2 E2-E4]
Aired: January 31, 2015 – February 14, 2015
Produced By: Michael Bay
Directed By: Clark Johnson / Stefan Schwartz
Starring: Toby Stephens, Hannah New, Luke Arnold
Website: IMDB

Score: 6/9 Hammers

Even though I am dismissive about large swathes of the Starz show Black Sails, this does not mean it does not have the possibility to ensnare attention. By the first couple episodes of the second season, the characters, in all of their misadventures, become comforting if anything because they never change. What evolution occurs, does so glacially, which means large surprises almost never happen. When surprises do happen, they occur only to minor characters. This differs from shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead where major characters will undergo catastrophic changes, like death and dismemberment. Black Sails is somewhat different, as its primary cast is insulated from any major changes. This could become different in future episodes, but I noticed this during one of the more surprising turns of the season if not the show.

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review: ENSIFERUM – One Man Army

Ensiferum - One Man Army (2015)

Ensiferum – One Man Army (2015)

ENSIFERUM
Album: One Man Army
Released: Febuary 20th 2015
Label: Metal Blade Records
Website: Official
Score: 8/9 Hammers

Heading into their 14th year, Ensiferum have something to prove. Moving on from their last album, the poorly received “Unsung Heroes” might have been difficult because it showed the band were capable of something you might not have suspected; releasing an “OK” album. While I can think of a couple of bands who’d long to produce an album like “Unsung Heroes” from Ensiferum, masters of folk metal, it felt like bit of a let-down. I don’t think it was bad, it just wasn’t fit to hold their heavy banner.

Thank the gods for “One Man Army”, then. This is an album worthy of their banner, not just bearing it but waving it about and jeering at the naysayers in the way only Ensiferum can, full of well-earned confidence and the kind of swagger you only develop with an axe through your belt-loop. Continue reading

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review: KEEP OF KALESSIN – Epistemology

Keep of Kalessin - Season of the Witch

Keep of Kalessin – Epistemology (2015)

KEEP OF KALESSIN
Album: Epistemology
Released: Febuary 16th 2015
Label: Indie Recordings
Website: Official
Score: 7/9 Hammers

It became kind of obvious Keep of Kalessin’s latest wasn’t going to be a game changer when they decided to hold a cover contest. Having fans submit their ideas for what the album should look like before they’d even finished making it seems like an obvious commitment to “more of the same”. If they were planning on re-inventing their sound or giving it a fresh direction, they’d want the cover to reflect that, and this hands-off approach, while being a great way to reward their rabid fan-base, is a promise that nothing surprising is going to develop. If you liked their old stuff, you know what’s coming.

It’s a promise they fulfil.
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game review: KARMAFLOW – The Rock Opera Videogame

Karmaflow: The Rock Opera Videogame (2015)

Karmaflow: The Rock Opera Videogame (2015)

KARMAFLOW: The Rock Opera Videogame
Developer: Basecamp Games
Released: 19th January 2015
Website: Official
Score: 4/9 Hammers

“There exists, for everyone, a sentence – a series of words – that has the power to destroy you. Another sentence exists, another series of words, that could heal you. If you’re lucky you will get the second, but you can be certain of getting the first.”

I don’t often start articles by pretentiously quoting Philip K Dick, but when Karmaflow hit Kickstarter last year promising “an epic fantasy rock opera” I finally knew what Dick was talking about when he alerted me to the verbal trigger to the bomb implanted in my spine. It’s that series of words, “an epic fantasy rock opera” that deactivates the bomb, by the way. The password that destroys me is the same sentence, but with three extra words: “But it sucks”. Continue reading

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review: BLIND GUARDIAN – Beyond the Red Mirror

Blind Guardian - Beyond the Red Mirror (2015)

Blind Guardian – Beyond the Red Mirror (2015)

BLIND GUARDIAN
Album: Beyond the Red Mirror
Released: January 30th, 2015
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Website: Facebook
Score: 7/9 Hammers

Damn. When was the last time I heard a Blind Guardian album? I feel so out of the loop. I think it was 2010. Oh, cool. I am all caught up then.

Looking over Blind Guardian’s discography one can see a steady release schedule stretched over a long period of time. Since 1998’s Nightfall on Middle Earth, the band has relegated their releases to around 4 years between albums. Things are of course never silent as the band fills in those long years with various singles, live albums and box sets. If anything can be said about Blind Guardian is they are pacing themselves for what seems like the longest haul in the history of the universe. Continue reading

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