Television Review: BLACK SAILS [S2 E2-E4]

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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review: STORMWITCH – Season of the Witch

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Stormeitch - Season of the Witch (2015)

Stormwitch – Season of the Witch (2015)

STORMWITCH
Album: Season of the Witch
Released: Febuary 17th 2015
Label: Massacre Records
Website: Official
Score: 4/9 Hammers

Stormwitch are a German metal band so old now their original stuff is entering classic territory. At thirty, and after enough line-up changes to cause even the most faithful fan a moment of concern, they’re back, ten years after their last album, with some of the same members they had thirty years ago. Does this signal something new? A revitalization of the formula that brought them to the success they’ve so long enjoyed?

Not exactly.

Straight away it’s pretty noticable that this isn’t a reinvention. After ten albums Stormwitch are still keeping to the same kind of formula, the same level of talent, they always have. It’s an impressive feat for a tenth album, though considering how long it’s been since the last fans might have expected them to shake it up a bit, maybe try a little re-invention. Continue reading

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The Most Metal Magic Cards

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Mountain-Goat

For my first article here at Hollywood metal, I wanted to talk about something I enjoy dearly: Magic the Gathering. If any card game could be said to be metal, it would be Magic. Why is this game metal? Because it can be both devastating and triumphant and filled with fantastic conflict which is fitting of the heroic deeds of viking warriors. I can’t think of any other word to describe mass death of fantasy armies or a plague of vampire hordes. Below are my favorite cards from Magic the Gathering that I think should totally be considered metal.

But hey, listen. I could be wrong. And if I am, I want to hear what you think. Tweet me @eaglemetaldawn or @hollywoodmetal and tell me what card you think is most deserving of a metal title. You can even send me a copy of the card and I’ll fit it into whatever cube or EDH deck I have on hand and play with it. It can’t be something silly like Stormcrow or Sanctuary Cat though. I am not cutting out Mountain Goat for them.

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film review: GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON [La vendetta di Ercole] (1960)

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Goliath and the Dragon (1960)

Goliath and the Dragon (1960)

GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON
[La vendetta di Ercole]

Released: August 12, 1960
Directed By: Vittorio Cottafavi
Starring: Mark Forest, Broderick Crawford, Gaby André
Website: IMDB
Score: 4/9 Hammers

By the time this movie came out, the Italian sword and sandal craze was already off and swinging, with multiple series running concurrently. Steve Reeves who played Hercules in our first two films, continued his career in a bevy of non-herculean Peplum films. One of these films was 1959’s Goliath and the Barbarians, which was released the same year as Hercules Unchained. Goliath and the Barbarians continued the success of Italian films distributed in the US. This is important, because when redistributing 1960’s Revenge of Hercules, the film was rebranded as Goliath and the Dragon to tie into the previous success of Goliath and the Barbarians. For this reason producers edited, changed, amended, and sliced Revenge of Hercules to fit whatever film they wanted for American audiences. This “whatever, it’s all the same” attitude has lead to one of the most confusing films in my recent memory. Seriously, what in the shit is going on? Continue reading

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4 Reasons You’re Not Excited About Any Fantasy Game Releases This Year

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This is you.

This is you.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have noticed that there’s no fantasy game releases particularly grabbing your attention this year. Well, don’t worry, it’s not that you’re getting too old to get giddy over the idea of slaughtering fantasy monsters. It’s just that a number of circumstances have come together in a perfect storm of apathy, scuttling the good ship “giving a shit” and ensuring absolutely nothing is going to exite you in the realm of fantasy videogaming this year.

Here’s four. Continue reading

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film review: HERCULES UNCHAINED [Ercole e la regina di Lidia] (1959)

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Hercules Unchained (1959)

Hercules Unchained (1959)

HERCULES UNCHAINED
[Ercole e la regina di Lidia]

Released: 14 February 1959
Directed By: Pietro Francisci
Starring: Steve Reeves, Sylvia Lopez, Sylva Koscina
Website: IMDB
Score: 4/9 Hammers

Though the subsequent sequels to the 1958 film Hercules would be in the teens, I never would have thought the quality of these Italian sword and sandal films would decline so quickly. In fact, I thought it would take at least 3 or 4 films before the stories became lazy and confusing. Imagine my surprise when the second film in the iconic Pelplum? series was already near sleep inducing on top of existentially confusing. Make no mistake, I am more than excited to see this series through until the bitter end, though I would liked to stay awake through at least 50% of the running length. With few connections to the original film, Steve Reeves reprises his role as the stacked and capable Hercules. What I originally said about Hercules as an infallible film hero in the first film may or may not apply in Hercules Unchained. Continue reading

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review: ILLUMINATA – Where Stories Unfold

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Illuminata - Where Stories Unfold (2015)

Illuminata – Where Stories Unfold (2015)

ILLUMINATA
Album: Where Stories Unfold
Released: January 23th 2015
Label: Indipendent
Website: Official
Score: 5/9 Hammers


Agree / Disagree?

Illuminata is something of an odd band. A “cinematic metal” outfit from Sweden with a ungoogleable name, they’ve cultivated a small but devoted fanbase over the course of their last few albums and thus decided to crowdfund this one. Frankly, I’m glad they did, because it allowed them to get the god damn Czech film orchestra involved. Say what you will of the wisdom of paying for something before it even exists, it does allow a certain amount of creative freedom, and somehow I can’t imagine a small label forking over the money for an orchestra like this to a band without some major mass appeal. Continue reading

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game review: AVERNUM 2: CRYSTAL SOULS

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Avernum 2: Crystal Souls (2015)

Avernum 2: Crystal Souls (2015)

AVERNUM 2: CRYSTAL SOULS
Developer: Spiderweb Software
Released: 14th January 2015
Website: Official
Score: 5/9 Hammers


Agree / Disagree?

Avernum 2: Crystal Souls is, against all odds, the eighth in a series of games I’ve never heard of, which somehow isn’t the most confusing thing about it. Assassin’s Creed, to name but one example, has pretty much proved that accurately numbering your games is optional, and I’m not the sort that thinks stupid decisions are the sole domain of big companies. Of course, Avernum is a series that’s been going since 1994, so it was never going to be as easy as that. See, the current Avernium series (set to be a trilogy, because isn’t everything) is a remake of the first Avernum Trilogy released between 2005 and 2009, which is some Hollywood-tier rebooting. Not that it stops there, those games themselves are remakes of the Exile Trilogy, all made by the same company between 1995 and 1997. On one hand I want to criticize Jeff Vogel, the game’s creator, for apparently having exactly one good idea for a story, But on the other I almost want to congratulate him for knowing he’s only got one good idea, and sticking to it. Continue reading

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review: BLACK SAILS [S02E01]

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Black Sails (2014)

Black Sails (2014)

BLACK SAILS [S2E1]
Aired: January 25, 2014
Produced By: Michael Bay
Directed By: Steve Boyum
Starring: Toby Stephens, Hannah New, Luke Arnold
Website: IMDB

Score: 5/9 Hammers


Agree / Disagree?

I completely forgot I had watched the entire first Season of Black Sails until Brendan, the editor, told me about Season 2. I believe this is standard practice to release one season in a year, but the space between the close of Black Sails Season 1 and the premiere of Season 2 feels like an eternity. If I remember correctly I was less than impressed at the Starz original series, which attempts to chase the same glory seen by shows like Deadwood, Game of Thrones, and the Tudors just with a different fantasy theme. Though the show follows the exploits of historically accurate buccaneers in the high age of piracy, Black Sails began with an existential struggle between being a saucy historical drama and a ridiculous slab of pulp. Despite either direction they can chose, the strength of the show will depend on focus and the ability to entertain. I have yet to make any conclusion based on the first episode. Continue reading

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review: THE CROWN – Death Is Not Dead

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The Crown - Dead is not Dead (2014)

The Crown – Dead is not Dead (2014)

THE CROWN
Album: Death Is Not Dead
Released: January 12th 2015
Label: Century Media
Website: Official Facebook
Score: 4/9 Hammers


Agree / Disagree?

Death Is Not Dead is a big deal for the Swedish outfit for a couple or reasons. Firstly, it marks the (hopefully) triumphant return of their original vocalist Johann Lindstrand but perhaps more importantly it’s also the first new thing they’ve come out with in four years. Interestingly, the last thing they released, “Doomsday King” was itself a comeback album after a three year hiatus, which makes this difficult to classify. Is this a comeback to the comeback? The original vocalist is back, replacing Stalhammar who replaced him after he replaced Lindberd, who replaced him the first time he left. It’s seeming more like a intolerably drawn out game of the hokey pokey than a band at this point, and confused isn’t the best mood to go into an album with. Honestly, I just can’t imagine how awkward it must be to be a roadie for these guys, or whether the band themselves wear those stupid little “Hello, my name is _____” nametags.

Of course, this is all immaterial. What actually matters is whether the guy can sing. Continue reading

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