game review: WARHAMMER – The End Times: Vermintide

Warhammer: The End Times: Vermintide (2015)

Warhammer: The End Times: Vermintide (2015)

WARHAMMER – The End Times: Vermintide
Developer: Fatshark
Released: October 23th, 2015
Website: Official
Score: 8/9 Hammers

For reasons that probably involve an endless lust for cash, Games Workshop recently murdered their entire fantasy setting in a tide of snivelling rat. This made a lot of people very unhappy and has widely been regarded as a bad move. This is partially because that was a world with a rich and involved lore that now no longer exists, and partially because its fans had spent hundreds of dollars and hours building a plastic army that is now worthless in the current world. That and the addition of fucking magic space marines.

Vermintide: End Times is like a big sloppy farewell kiss with that beloved dead world, a long awkward make-out in a relationship that you know is doomed, but if you close your eyes it feels just like the good old times. Except your partner has a bit of a cold and every now and again they cough into your mouth. You know it’s not their fault, but you still need to take a moment every now and again.

Vermintide is like that. Continue reading

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SWALLOW THE SUN – Songs from the North I, II & III

Swallow the Sun - Songs from the North I,II,III (2015)

Swallow the Sun – Songs from the North I,II,III (2015)

Album: Songs from the North I, II & III
Released: November 13th, 2015
Label: Century Media Records
Website: Official
Score: 7/9 Hammers

I personally heralded the movement to digital, pay per song download as the best thing to happen to music since the invention of the electric guitar; while there will always be something incredible about well formed albums as a whole, buying one in a pre-digital world was always a risky business. Not only were you lucky to find the one you wanted, assuming you weren’t after whatever was in the charts that week, there was a good chance the one song you’d heard that convinced you to purchase was the only decent one on there, forcing you to pay $10 for three minutes of listenable music and 45 minutes of filler and dross. Say what you will about our eroded attention spans, there’s no denying the average listener pays for a lot less intolerable shit these days.

Songs from the North I,II & III, is a release apparently designed to teach us the folly of our ways, a three album, three hour megamass of music that seeks, according to the band’s Facebook page, to “…bring worth, heart and respect back into the music and to the album format where it belongs. This should never turn into a shallow fast food industry where music is only downloaded one song at a time”.

It’s an amicable goal, but does it achieve it? Can it achieve it? Is it possible to make three entire albums worth of equally engrossing, unmissable music?

Maybe. Continue reading

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PANOPTICON – Autumn Eternal

Panopticon - Autumn Eternal (2015)

Panopticon – Autumn Eternal (2015)

Album: Autumn Eternal
Released: October 16th, 2015
Label: Bindrune Recordings
Website: Facebook
Score: 7/9 Hammers

I would never have thought Panopticon would fit within the scope of Hollywood Metal. As you are probably aware, Hollywood Metal is in the business of celebrating metal that can be defined as “epic.” Panopticon is an American black metal project that has as much interest in liberal social and political views as it does in American folk music. While this does not sound like it fits in with other metal bands who write about dungeon crawling and viking lore, the two approaches can be similar. By the closing notes of Autumn Eternal, the 6th full length for American black metal act Panopticon, I feel the term epic could possibly be used.

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NHOR – Within the Darkness Between the Starlight

Nhor - Within the Darkness Between the Starlight. (2015)

Nhor – Within the Darkness Between the Starlight. (2013)

Album: Within the Darkness Between the Starlight
Released: August 30th, 2013
Label: Lupus Lounge
Website: Official
Score: 9/9 Hammers

“Within the Darkness between the Starlight”, aside from being the eternal realm of the old ones, is now the latest release from ambient folk, atmospheric black doom metaler and notorious adjective hoarder Nhor, and the first thing I noticed upon picking it up is the album cover.

Their cover is immediately reminiscent of the illustrations you used to get in old Lord of the Rings novels, with greyscale forest bleeding upwards into a chaos of branches and a tiny figure who seems lost and alone, even though, as far as we’re aware, this could be their daily commute. Mostly I assume to give some scale to what might otherwise be a really dramatic artist’s rendition of the inside of a hedge.

Viewed in the context of their music, it’s also a pretty fucking apt representation of what to expect. Continue reading

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game review: JOTUN

Jotun (2015)

Jotun (2015)

Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
Released: September 29th, 2015
Website: Official
Score: 8/9 Hammers

Jotun is the tale of a Viking warrior denied access to Valhalla for her inglorious death because, despite being a fearsome warrior, she managed to drown with the sinking of her long ship. The Norse gods are famously loose on the details, so despite a lifetime of implied ass kicking the fact that she never got herself killed means she’s out of luck.

That is at least until a booming voice, presumably belonging to a cycloptic know-it-all informs you that you can still get into Valhalla, but you’re going to have to kill five Jotun (a kind of Norse Titan) to do it. This seems like a slightly unreasonable request, considering getting into Valhalla for most people is as easy as losing a knife fight, but I guess when you’re waiting for Ragnarok you’ve got to make your own fun.

It just feels awesome. People who enjoyed Titan Souls and Shadow of the Colossus will find the boss fights recognizable, though with more of a tendency to throw nameless mooks at you than either of those games did, the consistency is mainly in the sense of scale. Jotun, as their name implies, are massive, with each swing of your mighty battleaxe equivalent to little more than a splinter and rarely, if ever, reaching beyond their toes. This is what the game does well, providing the player with these beautiful, hand drawn challenges and letting you work out how best to dispose of them, and a straight assault, while often unwise, is never off the cards. Each boss has a certain pattern and the arenas often have features you can take advantage of to make the fights easier, but there’s no real reason you can’t just take your axe and set about reducing your opponents to meat through industrious chopping. In truly Viking fashion, muscle is necessarily, strategy is optional. Continue reading

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A Far Away Fortress: An Interview with Lord Lovidicus


As mentioned in other articles, Dungeon Synth, as a genre, is very intimate with the divide between creator and listener much more narrow than other genres. Perhaps the same distance though is supplanted between the general population and whoever knows about dungeon synth. Even though the style is certainly diverse, you could probably break dungeon synth into broad categories one being dark and drone like and the other light and magical. Lord Lovidicus is certainly magical and his extensive catalog is devoted to a wide array of personal and fantasy themes. Book of Lore Volume 1 is the newest release from Lord Lovidicus and is his 14th since 2009. The album is entirely centered around the stories of the Silmarillion which for those who listen to dungeon synth, should already be recognized as the biblical stories of Middle Earth before the Third Age. I sat down with the creator, who sometimes goes by the name crow, in a quiet corner of a castle library and over the crackling of the hearth we discussed books, music, and the ill fated dungeon synth festival that is never going to happen.

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Dungeon Synth Digest #4

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. Or even become an expert by default in absence of anyone else who cares. Whatever the case, this genre that was opened to me by the work of Erang, has led me into a magical world of fantastical ambient music and obsessed musicians who create landscapes within their own heads. There are few musicians attached to this genre, and perhaps even fewer listeners, but I call this little hamlet home. Enjoy your stay here in my little cottage. Please have some tea and sit down for a while.

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Hollywood Metal’s Spooky Halloween Playlist

halloween-house-iphone-wallpaper-halloween-wallpapers-I enjoy Halloween for it’s simplicity. For a few weeks out of the year, everyone is allowed to embrace darkness. It is a joyous occasion when ghosts, ghouls, witches, and the terrifying occult are giggled at and made into the atmosphere of a party. This pretty much makes up most of heavy metal so I do not see why you wouldn’t have a playlist of the best spooky music for this season.

However, let us face a hard fact. Any Halloween playlist will be discarded come November 1st, and all of the great music will probably be packed up with the plastic pumpkins in a box until next year. This is why your playlist should be more existential in its horror so the reverberations echo throughout the year. I am sure Marilyn Manson’s cover of “This is Halloween” and a King Diamond track would get the party moving, but it will only be the sound of formless black/death that will stick with your guests until the day they pass. Let’s also face another hard fact, you are probably not going anywhere this Halloween because you were asked the one time to bring spooky music and you got too excited and put on something that scared little children. This is why you are sitting at home. This is perfect because this playlist is designed for individual horror. Continue reading

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UREAS – The Black Heart Album

Ureas - The Black Heart Album. (2015)

Ureas – The Black Heart Album. (2015)

Album: The Black Heart Album
Released: October 23th 2015
Label: Locomotive Records
Website: Official
Score: 3/9 Hammers

If you want to know about Ureas their website is a good place to start. Upon finding their homepage you’re greeted by their self-description which is so perfect I’ve put it here in its entirety:

“Welcome to Denmark’s most controversial Gothic/Metal/Rock/Badass motherfucking street progressive fucked-up metal band”

Which is not only a fuckton of things to try to be, it’s potentially the angstiest, edgiest, most hilariously immature way I’ve ever been told by a band that they make music for the hardcore 13-17 demographic, pushing for the sweet-spot when everyone’s angry about everything and nobody knows why.
Continue reading

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SAXON – Battering Ram

Saxon - Battering Ram (2015)

Saxon – Battering Ram (2015)

Album: Battering Ram
Released: October 16th 2015
Label: UDR Music
Website: Official
Score: 7/9 Hammers

It’s been an unusually good year for fans of the classics, what with Motorhead, Maiden and Satan all releasing new albums. Now, with Saxon’s “Battering Ram”, English Metal’s suddenly looking a lot like it did in the eighties, which will probably make a whole lot of middle-aged men happy. It certainly did that for my old man, harking back to a happier time when he had less wives and more hair.

I came into Saxon flying blind, I’m ashamed to say. As a feckless twenty-something, I can’t tell you whether this is better or worse than their first album, just what they’ve gained or lost since the glory days or exactly how it compares to hearing them live in the backroom of a Doncaster pub in 1977. If you’re lucky your dad might be able to, but probably not with very much accuracy. Beer was 50p a pint back then and he’s only human. Continue reading

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game review: GRAND AGES – MEDIEVAL

Grand Ages: Medieval (2015)

Grand Ages: Medieval (2015)

Developer: Gaming Minds Studios
Released: September 25th, 2015
Website: Official
Score: 3/9 Hammers

Looking at the box art for Grand Ages: Medieval you might think the presence of an angry, Theoden looking motherfucker staring down at his kingdom like it just shat on the rug is meant to imply this is a game of war and bloodshed – the fire and pikemen behind him certainly do. But if you buy this looking to forge an empire in bloody conquest you’re going to come away disappointed; a more accurate cover would have been him looking angrily down at a thousand pounds of uneaten wheat, and while I wouldn’t have bought that game, I also wouldn’t be as annoyed with it as I am. Continue reading

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SATAN – Atom by Atom

Satan - Atom by Atom (2015)

Satan – Atom by Atom (2015)

Album: Atom by Atom
Released: October 2nd, 2015
Label: Listenable Records
Website: Official
Score: 7/9 Hammers

Satan is easy to love. I mean, who else has the corner market on one of the best names in heavy metal. Certainly a band with the name Satan should be along side other super acts like Slayer and Iron Maiden. Come on, their name is Satan. Do not tell me this band has gone decades as an underrated NWOBHM gem. Continue reading

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Children of Bodom - I Worship Chaos (2015)

Children of Bodom – I Worship Chaos (2015)

Album: I Worship Chaos
Released: October 2nd 2015
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Website: Official
Score: 5/9 Hammers

I find myself wondering how exactly you would worship chaos. It’s not like having regular services at an appointed place would be in the spirit of the thing, and chaos by its nature is sort of hard to identify when it’s happening. Sure, they might just throw a waterbomb filled with petrol and snakes into a meeting of the electoral college or go chase butterflies about in the Amazon and call it a day, chaos sown, but it’s hardly worship. If you wanted to properly worship the universal force of unpredictability you’d drink something to cloud your mind, turn up two hours late to somewhere that’s definitely not a church and barge into other worshippers, knocking each other about like a sack pine cones in a washing machine until the lights came back on, the music stops, and everyone goes home, though preferably not their own.

Sign me up for life. Continue reading

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game review – BLOOD BOWL 2

Bloodbowl 2 (2015)

Blood Bowl 2 (2015)

Developer: Cyanide
Released: September 22st, 2015
Website: Official
Score: 6/9 Hammers

If you’re anything like me, you’ve always been put off traditional sports by the ludicrous pay checks, constant scandals and persistent lack of incentivised, legitimized murder. Bloodbowl was Games Workshop’s attempt to fix that, back when they still made games you could play without re-mortgaging your house. Bloodbowl 2 is, oddly enough, the fourth title released by Cyanide to bring that particular blend of football and fantasy violence to everyone who doesn’t own an Olympic sized dining table.

It’s framed and presented explicitly like a sporting event, complete with constant references to Cabalvision and Facetome that, while perhaps a little asinine, works as an allusion to something equally asinine, so it comes across as knowing and intentional rather than irritating. Continue reading

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