OMEN – Battle Cry (1984)

Omen - Battle Cry (1984)

Omen – Battle Cry (1984)

Album: Battle Cry
Released: November 1984
Label: Metal Blade Records
Website: MA Page

Score: 8/9 Hammers

“In the days of darkness, men feared not the sword and the lance, Nor did he fear the beast of fire… He feared… The Axeman!!”

The 4th of July is a wonderful time to gather with friends, drink in other people’s yards, and spin classic American heavy metal records. While all of those things may not happen exactly as I want them to, this weekend should be used to make your way through a time when power metal was an American invention, before Europe made it into what it is today. United States Power Metal (USPM) has a wonderful history that has been touched upon briefly in my other reviews of Manowar and Cirith Ungol. I believe that Omen will be the first time we get serious with speed and power of the sound.

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OBSEQUIAE – Aria of Vernal Tombs

Obsequiae - Aria of Vernal Tombs (2015)

Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs (2015)

Album: Aria of Vernal Tombs
Released: May 26th, 2015
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Website: Facebook
Score: 7/9 Hammers

Though categorizing Obsequiae is seemingly easy, fully understanding this US black metal band, who has devoted themselves fully to a medieval aesthetic, may take some time. Okay, I got it. This is a black metal band with a harp. Got it. It is half way through the year and on various lists, a strange name has continued to appear, followed by what sounded like murmurings echoing off a ruined castle. In the highlands of Minnesota sit three musicians who are ready to bridge the time gap between past and present with the lush sound of harp intros.

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book review: MASMORRA #1 – A Dungeon Synth Zine

MASMORRA #1 - A Dungeon Synth Zine

MASMORRA #1 – A Dungeon Synth Zine

First Published: March 2015
Publisher: Romulo
Score: 7/9 Hammers

This year I have talked a lot about Dungeon Synth. An absurd amount to be precise. I think I have talked about Dungeon Synth more than other genre at my first acquaintance with them. This all happened because I stumbled upon Erang, which led me to his private Facebook group, which led me to multiple albums of ambient electro medieval music, which led to the short stories and maps, which led me down farther into this weird cavern of wonder. All of this led me to seek out more material, which included labels and blogs, which eventually led to the zines. Perhaps it is because this genre is still obscure and followed by a small group of devoted fans of this fantasy ambient music. Perhaps it is just the fantasy aspect combined with the overbearing sense of nerdniness. Whatever it is, I love it.

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An Obituary for Sir Christopher Lee

"To be a legend, you've either got to be dead or excessively old!"

“To be a legend, you’ve either got to be dead or excessively old!”

It is difficult to be a part of the fantasy and metal community and write a memorial for Christopher Frank Carandini Lee for many reasons. First of all, it is slightly emotional since the longtime actor and musician has been a part of both fantasy and metal culture for quite some time. Aside from making his own silly metal records, Lee provided the voice for Rhapsody’s introductions, primarily as the role of the Wizard King on the 2002 record Symphony of Enchanted Lands II. Additionally, the actor is perhaps best known for his role as Saruman in Peter Jackson’s’ Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Lee’s death earlier this month left many people in a state of both sadness and remembrance for the variety of roles and appearances he has made over the past decade.

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Can's Offering - Stormcrow

Can’s Offering – Stormcrow

Album: Stormcrow
Released: May 15th 2015
Label: Frontiers
Website: Facebook
Score: 8/9 Hammers

I’ve never understood super groups. I mean, of course I understand the coming together of a group of fantastic musicians to form a great, new whole, but surely that’s what all bands are? Insisting that your group is superior (and what else does the word “super” insist?) simply because you’re all already successful seems a little big smug, especially if you consider just how few of them are any bloody good.

This is one of the many things Cain’s Offering do differently. A simple merging of Timo Kotipelto of Stratovarius fame and Jani Liimatainen of Sonata Arctica, they’re what often gets labelled Euro power metal, though the association with power metallers Europe doesn’t exactly do them justice. Theirs is a grand type of power metal, with big sweeping solos and Timo’s operatic stylings coming together for an immediately enjoyable triumphant score. While 2009’s Gather the Faithful had something of melancholic undertone, this is purely celebratory, a big dumb celebration anything and everything, with some gratuitous soloing to give it a little thunder.

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metal history: THE VARANGIANS

Holmgard and beyond / That's where the winds will us guide /  For fame and for gold / Set sail for those lands unknown

Holmgard and beyond / That’s where the winds will us guide /
For fame and for gold / Set sail for those lands unknown

Source: Wikipedia
Key Dates: 700 – 1200 AD

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!

The Varangian was the name given to a group of river vikings that ruled the Kievan Rus’ (modern day east Russian Federation) and developed trade routes from Scandinavia to the Byzantine Empire. The Varangians offered their mercenary service to the Byzantine empire and even comprised an elite group of bodyguards of important byzantine officials. Who wouldn’t feel safe with a group of river vikings wielding axes by your side? The Varangians served as the impetus for trade disputes, wars, and cultural sharing that bridged the east and west through goods and services. They were also the source of inspiration for the Easterlin in Tolkien’s middle earth and a platform for a dozen games, albums, and fantasy novels. Continue reading

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ARMORED SAINT – Win Hands Down

Armored saint- Win Hands Down (2015)

Armored saint- Win Hands Down (2015)

Album: Win Hands Down
Released: June 2nd 2015
Label: Metal Blade Records
Website: Official
Score: 7/9 Hammers

Armored saint are a band with a mildly troubled past, in much the same way that testicular torsion is a mildly uncomfortable condition. Emerging doused in hairspray and clad in leather during the eighties, they’ve struggled in and out of existence more times than Marty Mcfly’s extended family, and for about as long. After a 1983 formation, they put out some real heavy metal before disbanding again in 1993, when lead vocalist John bush left for Anthrax and the rest of the band just left. Since then they’ve wandered back to reality just long enough to put out a couple of notable albums before disappearing again. I’ll let you decide whether that has anything to do with their involvement with a certain demonic puzzle box.

They’re back now with their first in five years. I just hope I don’t have to wait another five for their next one.

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game review: THE WITCHER 3

The Witcher 3 (2015)

The Witcher 3 (2015)

Developer: CD Projekt RED
Released: May 19th, 2015
Website: Official
Score: 9/9 Hammers

3 games in, and I couldn’t tell you why they’re called “witchers”. They’re not witches. Though they do do magic, they don’t call it magic and it’s nothing compared to the pan-dimensional shit actual witches pull. What they do do is murder magical animals. They’re actively working to remove magic from the world. That’s the opposite of what a witch is, but they don’t even try to murder witches. If Geralt, the titular witcher, is an example, they spend more time getting friendly with witches than killing them. The only guys in the game trying to kill witches, imaginatively called “witch hunters”, are both villainously evil and hilariously under-skilled for fighting witches. And when you consider that witch is typically a feminine term, but witchers seem to be mostly men, you weave to wonder why they didn’t call them “warlockers”. If that seemed too dumb, why not “warcocks”? If they were a guild called Warcocks, they sure as shit wouldn’t be having any problems getting new recruits. Continue reading

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PARADISE LOST – The Plague Within

Paradise Lost - The Plague Within (2015)

Paradise Lost – The Plague Within (2015)

Album: The Plague Within
Released: June 1st 2015
Label: Century Media
Website: Official
Score: 4/9 Hammers

After 14 albums, you might expect to know a band pretty intimately. You can expect to have a good idea of what they do well, what they don’t and, more importantly, you can expect them to have a good idea too. Other than the occasional accident, 14 albums is enough to know whether or not you’re the kind of band that sings solemn hymns about the destruction of hope or the kind that who punctuates their stage shows with gigantic hydraulic penises. It’s a fine line but the sooner a band realises which side they’re on the better and, after 14 albums, that decision should be long made. The downside to this, of course, is that they’ll very rarely surprise you and when they do it’s even rarer that this is for the better.

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Conan the Barbarian (1970)

Conan the Barbarian (1970)

First Published: October 1970
Published By: Marvel
Writers / Artists: Roy Thomas / Barry Smith
Score: 6/9 Hammers

If you have been a loyal follower of Hollywood Metal, you will remember my review of the of the Savage Tales of Conan, which was a magazine comic run in the mid 70’s by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor Smith. Savage Tales, which would later be Savage Sword, was sort of a party for the two as they were not chained by the comic code authority. Why did they do this? Well, it is hard to say, but it was probably because they spent 5 years prior making the squeaky clean PG rated Conan the Barbarian during the early 1970’s. That is right, if you are here for blood, guts, and gratuitous nudity, you are shit out of luck as Conan the Barbarian was a successful series that pit the Robert E Howard Character in respectable peril as well as opened up the world of the Hyborian Age.

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film review: THE CROWN AND THE DRAGON (2013)

The Crown and the Dragon (2013)

The Crown and the Dragon (2013)

Released: 2013
Directed By: Anne K. Black
Starring: Owen Barton, Angus Brown, Claire Cordingley
Website: IMDB
Score: 2/9 Hammers

Jesus, I really do not want to be negative but these current fantasy films are sort of making me this way. I am always timid when it comes to criticizing music albums, but find myself more desensitized toward films. although just as much hard work goes into a film as an album, the blame for bad cinema can be spread over a larger party including director, writers, actors, editing, and just about everyone involved. This may be the case for The Crown and the Dragon. I will even track down the catering, that had it on set, and give them a piece of my mind.

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game review: TITAN SOULS

Titan Souls - 2015

Titan Souls – 2015

Developer: Acid Nerve
Released: April 14th, 2015
Website: Official
Score: 8/9 Hammers

This is the second time I’ve reviewed Titan souls. if you’d like to know what I thought of the luddum dare free version, click here.

This is a game in which a small, silent protagonist of unclear motivation wanders the ruins of a massive empty world, hunting down and dispatching a number of strange and improbable beasts to advance a plot they cannot fully comprehend. Whether or not you imagined the hero riding a horse is a good way of testing which classic I just described had a greater effect on you; “Dark Souls” or “Shadow of the Colossus”. Either way, if you liked them, there’s a good chance you’ll like this.

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An obituary for TERRY JONES

000apagterrripI remember Maryland Deathfest in 2013. I was excited to see Pagan Altar and brought a notebook to write down stories that came to me during their set. Though it was sunny and mildly warm in the blocked off street corners, there were few things that could sway the atmosphere of a band that dedicated themselves to classic, hypnotic doom. This was not an afternoon in downtown Baltimore, rather high Autumn among the lush rolling hills of antiquity. I remember the crowd cheering when the band took the stage, followed closely by Terry Jones dressed in an outfit that would not look out of place in the streets of Victorian London. It looked odd at first, but with the first opening chords, the world melted away and we were a part of antiquity once again.

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LEPROUS – The Congregation

Leprous - The Congregation (2015)

Leprous – The Congregation (2015)

Album: The Congregation
Released: May 25th 2015
Label: Inside out Music
Website: Official
Score: 7/9 Hammers

I don’t tend to listen to albums before I decide to review them. Obviously, if there’s something grotesquely wrong with the music after a first listen I’ll write it off, but otherwise I grin, bear it, and try to think of an interesting way of saying “this sucks” in 500 words or less. I don’t mention this because Leprous suck, because they don’t. I mention this because I decided to review them based entirely on the strength of their album art.

Because their album art is, quite clearly, two bird skulls attempting to kiss while passing through the bowel of an emaciated horse, and that is the exact kind of fucking madness that metal so desperately needs.

And, as an album stuffed with memorable, crunchy black/prog metal in the Scandinavian style, it’s precisely what I’ve been looking for, too.

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