film review: SINBAD: THE FIFTH VOYAGE (2014)

Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage (2014)

Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage (2014)

SINBAD: THE FIFTH VOYAGE
Released: 2014
Directed By: Shahin Sean Solimon
Starring: Shahin Sean Solimon
Website: IMDB
Score: 3/9 Hammers

If you recall, I enjoy plunging myself head first into spans of film genres. One can look at each film genre as a great adventure and relish the time spent learning about nuances and origins of the style. If you also recall, I ran through classic horror for the Halloween season followed by a gallop through 1960’s Italian Sword and Sandal. These two exploits were propelled by my first film genre foray into Sword and Sorcery from the 80’s and 90’s. To mark a great conquest across fantastic filmmaking, I have returned to the various fantasy films of today and my oh my how little there are to choose from.

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Apocalyptica – Shadowmaker

Apocalyptica _ Shadowmaker (2015)

Apocalyptica _ Shadowmaker (2015)

Apocalyptica
Album: Shadowmaker
Released: April 17th 2015
Label: Better Noise/Eleven Seven Records
Website: Official
Score: 4/9 Hammers

Before anybody accuses me of some ethical failing on the grounds of disagreeing with my opinion, I want to come clean about my biases. I dig Apocalyptica. I dug them when they were starting out as what amounted to a Metallica cello tribute band. I dug them when they started striking out, making their own stuff. I dug 2003’s “Reflections”. I dug 1996’s “Metallica by Four Cellos”. As far as I’m concerned, Apocalyptica is at their best when they’re finding new ways to make classical instruments sound like war drums, but they’re not exactly incapable of mixing with more contemporary styles.

So why don’t I like this?

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game review: Pillars of Eternity

Pillars Of Eternity (2015)

Pillars Of Eternity (2015)

Pillars of Eternity
Developer: Obsidian
Released: March 26th, 2015
Website: Official

Score: 9/9 Hammers

Pillars of Eternity is a new fantasy RPG produced by Obsidian and kickstarted entirely by people who prefer deep complexity and vast swathes of well written text to shiny graphics and floating arrows that magically hover over your next objective. This means that, no matter how good it is, there are always going to be some people that dislike it. They’re the same folks who dislike having to read quest objectives, whose greatest desire is to sprint thoughtlessly toward a glowing point on a magical compass without sparing much thought as to what they’re doing, and to whom a difficult fight is just one you have to pause every other swing to chug a health potion.

Wimps, basically.

Complexity alone though doesn’t make for fun. Unleashing a demon from its puzzle box is complex, but for the safety of your softer, squishier bits I wouldn’t recommend it. How pillars succeeds is by keeping its depth on an opt-in basis. Playing easy mode will ensure a basic understanding of the system will keep you alive, while hard punishes you for understanding any less than the designers themselves. That’s not just the combat, of course. Throughout are little puzzles built into the world that the game never tells you the answer to, even when your character’s acquired all the available information. This ensures you’ll have to do the reading (and the thinking) for yourself, and that you’ll feel like you’ve actually achieved something when you get it right, no matter how simple it looks from an outsider.

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EUROPE – War of Kings

Europe - War of kings (2015)

Europe – War of kings (2015)

EUROPE
Album: War of Kings
Released: March 2nd 2015
Label: UDR Records
Website: Official
Score: 5/9 Hammers

When thinking about a band like Europe, it can perhaps be easy to forget they had a career outside the ten minutes it took them to record “The Final Countdown”. It’s almost as though they existed just long enough to get it down before skulking back into their home dimension where somehow “seen us” is a better rhyme than “penis” for “Venus”.

Honestly, I’ve never been into them as a band. I couldn’t name one other album of theirs in their 36 year career. Obviously, I assume they’ve got other songs, I’ve even heard them live at one point, but it all seems like so much filler in contrast to what might be the world’s best bad song. My ignorance hasn’t stopped them releasing ten whole albums though, so with War of Kings I thought I’d discovered what they’ve changed over the years. Continue reading

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review: NIGHTWISH – Endless Forms Most Beautiful

Nightwish - Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2015)

Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2015)

NIGHTWISH
Album: Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Released: March 27th, 2015
Label: Nuclear Blast
Website: Official
Score: 5/9 Hammers

Let us be perfectly honest here. I am not the most knowledgeable person regarding the Finnish band Nightwish. Sure, I am familiar with their existence and possibly their most well known song “Wishmaster,” but if you were to ask me to match songs to albums, I would most likely fail. Furthermore, if you gave me a list of similar sounding phrases and asked me to pick out the Nightwish album, I would probably be average. The point is, if you were looking for an authoritative review on Endless Forms Most Beautiful, the band’s 8th studio album, you might as well go somewhere else. If you are like me, however, and have always had Nightwish at the periphery of your interest, then please sit on down and prepare yourself for the world of well dressed, slightly sensual, symphonic metal. Continue reading

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review: THE GENTLE STORM – The Diary

The Gentle Story - the Diary

The Gentle Story – the Diary

THE GENTLE STORM
Album: The Diary
Released: March 23th 2015
Label: Inside Out Music
Website: Facebook
Score: 6/9 Hammers

Though this is their first album, The Gentle Storm isn’t a new band. Rather it’s a new name for an old pair, specifically Anneke Van Giersbergen and Arjen Anthony Lucassen. Though they’ve worked together in the past (most notably in Ayreon), the Gentle Storm Isn’t like that. It’s not “Arjen and friends” like Ayreon clearly was. Honestly, “The Diary” feels more Anneke’s thing than Arjen’s, so feel free to inflame/suppress your hopes based on preference. I personally dig Anneke, so I’ve been polishing my warhorn in anticipation since this was announced.

If you don’t think you’ve heard of Anneke, you’re probably wrong. Having started recording in the nineties, she’s got twenty years’ experience with adding her particular blend of vocal brilliance, both to pre-2007 The Gathering and almost every other metal band who found themselves needing a female vocalist, from Devin Townsend to Moonspell. Continue reading

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Television Review: BLACK SAILS [S2 E5-E7]

Black Sails (2014)

Black Sails (2014)

BLACK SAILS [S2 E5-E7]
Aired: February 21, 2015 – March 7, 2015
Produced By: Michael Bay
Directed By: Clark Johnson / Stefan Schwartz
Starring: Toby Stephens, Hannah New, Luke Arnold
Website: IMDB

Score: 5/9 Hammers

Brenden, the editor here at Hollywood Metal, recently asked me how I was liking the second season of the STARZ show Black Sails. I honestly couldn’t answer because I do not know. This pirate themed historical fantasy has been one of the more schizophrenic shows in my recent memory, similar to a freeway collision of pulp, dry drama, interesting narrative, and downright needless characters. Each episode shifts the equilibrium leading to a ballroom dance around a spectrum of good, bad, and unclassifiable. The middle of Season 2 might just be when one of the many characteristics I’ve come to associate with this show boils to a conclusion and is quickly tackled by the other wielding a knife. Continue reading

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review: INTO THE BLACK – The Inside Story of METALLICA

Into the Black (2014)

Into the Black (2014)

INTO THE BLACK: The Inside Story of Metallica
Publisher: Da Capo Press (November 4, 2014)
Written by: Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood
Website: AMAZON

Score: 5/9 Hammers

Oh cool, a book on Metallica. Oh wait, this book is only about the worst era of Metallica? Fuck.

The history of Metallica has been mined and discussed numerous times in numerous books. In fact, the two Authors of Into The Black: The Inside Story of Metallica wrote a similar book on Metallica in 2013. Birth School Metallica Death: The Inside Story of Metallica: Volume 1 all detailed the formation of the band up until their breakthrough success with 1991’s Eponymous AKA The Black Album. Into the Black picks up the story and carries the reader into 2014 after the disastrous project LuLu with veteran Lou Reed. I am unsure whether or not this book is volume 2 of the Metallica opus or whether there will be another book coming up that will be covering similar ground. What is known is that both authors, Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood, are veteran journalists of numerous music publications that have dedicated themselves to bringing readers the story of Metallica’s lamest, most unflattering, and sobering period in the band’s history.

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An obituary for SIR TERRY PRATCHETT

Terry Pratchett spent an alarming amount of time looking like an amicable wizard, probably because he was one.

Terry Pratchett spent an alarming amount of time looking like an amicable wizard, probably because he was one.

Obituaries are funny things. Little segments bookending a notable life with a few funny observations and facts that are immediately apparent to anyone who might know enough about the subject to want to read them. Often they start off with meaningless factoids, like the subject’s age (66) or the cause of death (natural causes).

But these things have always seemed insufficient. The tragedy of death isn’t that the person died, but that they stopped living, and those are not the same. Death, of course, isn’t cruel. He’s just very very good at his job.

The tragedy of Pratchett’s death isn’t that he and DEATH finally went to walk together, it’s that we must now walk without him.

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game review: SANCTUARY – BLACK EDITION

Sanctuary RPG : Black Edition (2015)

Sanctuary RPG : Black Edition (2015)

SACTUARY: BLACK EDITION
Developer: Black Shell Games
Released: Febuary 13th, 2015
Website: Official

Score: 8/9 Hammers

WHILE PATROLING THE VERDANT HILLS OF [STEAM] YOU COME ACROSS A [TEXT BASED RPG] LYING UNDER A BUSH. DO YOU [A] EQUIP IT OR [1] IGNORE IT?

>A

YOU ALREADY HAVE [ £5.59 ] IN YOUR INVENTORY. DO YOU WANT TO [E]QUIP THE [TEXT BASED RPG] OR [S]ALVAGE?

>E

YOU SALVAGE THE [ £5.59 ] GIVING YOU [1] [FAVOR OF GABEN]. YOU EQUIP THE [TEXT BASED RPG] GIVING YOU [+4] TO [TIME WASTING]

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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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