Posts Tagged ‘Batman’

Howdy; welcome once again to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about the music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 27, so that means I’ve made it 27 days without buying any cds, dvds, comic books or videogames. The man who started this blog four years ago could never have gone this long without consumerism. I’m pretty sure back when I worked my old job in 2010, I probably bought on average about two cds a week for the entire year at a minimum.

I haven’t actually posted much this time around because for the first 75% of the month, I’ve been super busy working crazy hours and having to fit in lots of academic work at home too for my final year. The other 25% of the month has been spent with loved ones and crazily poor internet signal. So, didn’t want to be rude and spend family time blogging, and didn’t have a good enough signal to do it much anyway, or at least do it easily.

Normally, going a month without buying anything would be quite difficult, but with the whole Christmas thing, I get to buy other people gifts and that sates the itch, so its been much easier. Also, you don’t know what you may receive as a gift and then buy nothing incase you’re gifted with it.

I’ve been really tempted a couple of times though, because, hey… I’m me. I saw Stratovarius and Accept albums in HMV this month and they never had them when I went looking for them. I saw Manowar albums on Amazon for between £1 and £3 that I’ve wanted for a while but are always more expensive. A lot of bands I like put out new albums and I’ve not gotten around to getting them (this year I’ve been so bad with buying new releases I can’t even put together an AOTY list!) even after seeing some of those bands live.

There’s also been numerous temptations within the world of comics. Just before starting this new fifth round of the GITWYPF challenge, I discovered Comixology. I mean I’d heard of it for the last two years, but Digital Comics seemed like a bad idea… I like reading physical books and laptops hurt my eyes and are the wrong shape for stories designed to be read in the shape of actual physical comics (unless you put a laptop on its side). So, for the two years I’ve been reading comics I avoided it, but the fact that so much is unavailable or only available on eBay for crazy prices, but available digitally for about £1 an issue (with no P&P because its digital) kind of won me over, and I can fill in gaps using this. Its not even poor to read due to the “guided view” feature, which zooms and readjusts the panels in order and blanks out the other panels, allowing you to watch the comic like a powerpoint or a slow cartoon. As a service, it’s a bit addictive though, and so a huge source of temptation. You the read two issues you want and then it makes you want to buy the ones before and after, or older ones of historical importance. Its too easy, too tempting, damn hard to stay away from.

Also, being in bookshops for getting others gifts makes me walk past lots of comic books and that makes you very close to just slipping one in there with the rest of the less-selfish purchases.

Videogames haven’t been a temptation at all, because I don’t have the time. It takes time to start up, time to shut them down or find savepoints, and your brain is abuzz afterwards so you can’t play them right before its time to sleep if you have to go to work in the morning. Compared to a book or comic book that you can just pick up and set down at a moments notice, its harder to fit them in. I got God Of War Ascension for my Birthday in the Summer and only managed to play it when Uni broke up about a week or so ago, and even then only for two days, and I still haven’t opened up Darksiders 2 which I got last Christmas. Theoretically I could now, but I don’t have a console with me at the moment, and by the time I get back to my term time address I’ll be hard at work again.

On the subject of God Of War Ascension, it was pretty good. I love that series, it is one of the most consistant and dependable series going. The combat is absolutely perfect, and its fun to see what vast-scale ideas they come up with next. It felt maybe like GOW 3 backed them into a corner and this prequel wasn’t just as impressive, but it was damn good regardless. I only got time to play one run-through of single player and no multiplayer, bonuses or second attempts, but on first impression it was very entertaining.

Anyway, the reason I right these things is to stop myself slipping up in the challenge. I may not have written many entries this time around, but I haven’t slipped up. I’ve stayed true, stayed the course (and whatever other “stay” phrases apply) and haven’t bought anything for myself since starting the challenge. Its been helped immensely by the Christmas presents.

I got the new Mushroomhead, Slipknot, Machine Head and Corrosion Of Conformity albums, as well as Helstar’s Nosferatu. I also got Spawn, Batman, X-Men and Spiderman comics. All delightfully nerdy gifts that stave off the “buy new stuff” urge very well. (Until I finish the comics and want the next in the series, at least).

Over the month, I’ve been really heavily listening to stuff I got for my Birthday, like the Tirivium, Judas Priest, Soundgarden, Helloween, Manowar and Savatage records I’ve already discussed on this blog ad naseum, in addition to Rishloo’s superb new album (of fucking course!) – because this year is going so ridiculously quickly that those still feel brand new despite being several months old – and in the last two days I’ve been blitzing those Christmas gift albums.

Did you know the Mushroomhead one has a cover of Adele’s “Rumour Has It” ? I had no idea until the chorus came in on my first listen through. Quite the surprise! Usually, I hate when Metal bands cover pop songs, especially if they aren’t particularly old. Covering a current pop song is a bit cheesy. But this works. Also, I’m way less snobby these days – Five Finger Death Punch covering “Moma Said Knock You Out” and nailing it will do that to ya.

The new Slipknot and Machine Head albums are good, by the way. Really good. The Machine Head one in particualt seems like a bit of a min-masterpiece in fact. If I heard enough new albums to do an AOTY list, it’d be damn tough choosing the top spot between it and Accept’s Blind Rage. Slipknot’s new album is interesting, beforehand I could not have been more cynical about or suspicious of. I was convinced it would be rubbish. It really isn’t though. Its strong. Damn strong. Stronger than the last one for sure. It seems to be a grower. Even all the lyrics about Paul’s death aren’t as cheap and cheesy as I imagined. I’d streamed “Skeptic” a few times because I’d heard that it was about Paul and I really cringed at the lyric “the world will never see another crazy muthafucker like you” – it just felt so dishonest and cheap, as if it was purely written to get sang along with and to make headlines, but the more I listen to it, in context, with the rest of the lyrics… I think its actually honest. Especially given how Corey and Shaun actually talk in real life.

The rest of that album is really good too. Its heavy, there aren’t any real ballads, the songs with poppier choruses never have as poppy verses as anything like “Dead Memories” or “Before I Forget.”

Not that heaviness in itself is good enough on its own. The thing is that the songs themselves are actually good. Memorable, catchy, the solos that feel more natural and less “look, I’m soloing.” There are some real fun, satisfying riffs on there and the new drummer actually keeps up Joey’s unique flappy, skittery style of drumming so it doesn’t sound like a huge departure.

I’ve also been listening to Machine Head’s older albums too. Inspired by the recent concert, and the new album, its always good to break out the ones I already own. Through The Ashes Of Empires has some of my absolute favourite Machine Head songs on it. “Vim,” “All Halls Down” and “Wipe Away The Tears” are the perennial favourites, and the concert made me reevaluate “Descend The Shades Of Night” and “Bite The Bullet” which I’ve overlooked in the past.

Then there’s Blind Guardian’s Nightfall In Middle Earth. Its like a mixture between Testament, Gamma Ray and oddly, Gentle Giant. I highly recommend checking that one out.

Being back with my family for the holidays I’ve also been exposed to my brother’s music. I’ve gotten to check out the new Animals As Leaders and Skyharbour albums. That is some seriously good stuff right there!

Check out the Animals As Leaders song “Physical Education” – such a fun tune!

I’ve also got access to my CDs again, because in my own place – half a country away – I don’t have the space to keep my CDs. My iTunes copies of a few Porcupine Tree and W.A.S.P. albums had glitches and faults in them, so being back here I was able to re-rip them. Its great listening to the songs properly without it skipping and cutting off short.

The rest of the time has been spent on romantic trips with my beautiful girlfriend, huge amounts of scrabble with the family, and watching all three seasons of That Mitchel And Webb Look and a series of Peep Show. I can’t go anywhere now without hearing Sir Digby Chicken Ceaser’s singing in the back of my head.

Its been an excellent break. The final one of this life as I’ll be qualified by the next one and go from someone who works to someone with a career – I forsee this will be my last Chirstmas day off for a while. I’ve been lucky in that my current job and my last job didn’t have me work on Christmas day (although I’ve done it before in previous jobs to that). Its been nice getting homework done and weights lifted in the same building as family instead of hundreds of miles away, its been nice having the time off work and its been nice having the free time to read so much. The crushingly slow internet was a tiny bit inconvenient but there’s only so many blogs about heavy music or Batman that a person can read in a month anyway.

Plus all this time in the middle of nowhere with no shops and too poor internet to access iTunes Store or Comixology well enough is pretty darn good for sticking to the challenge.

You can look forward to new album reviews and Amature Batfan articles too, as a result of all these lovely gifts. Merry Christmas, blogosphere!

Batman – Zero Year

Hello and welcome to the seventeenth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year-and-a-half buying and reading Batman comics to the point where I personally own over seventy of them now, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

On with the show.

This article will be about the recent Batman story Zero Year (and I’m condensing the two books into one single article here, because they don’t work separately – its a single story for sure, missing the start or the end would be a mess).

Having had a brilliantly sleepy day off work where I was too broken and tired to move much or leave the house at all, I decided it may be fun to write another one of these articles from the comfort of under my duvet – its absolutely freezing here at the moment so above it would be unrealistically, threateningly cold (shame I didn’t chose a Mr. Freeze related story, like ‘Snow.’) – and in order to do that I had to read some Batman, and I had been meaning to re-read this one because quite frankly I thought it majorly sucked when I first got it, and I was hoping I was wrong about it.

Long time readers may remember that when I first read the previous New 52 Batman by Snyder & Capullo story, A Death In The Family, I thought that it majorly sucked as well. I’ve since way mellowed on that story. Way mellowed to the point of thinking its actually pretty darn good. I like a lot about it and only the inconsequence of it after the hype was the main issue. Sure there are small faults, but there are small faults with every other Batman thing Snyder has done, like in the otherwise amazing Court Of Owls – the awful twist (luckily though that is one of those copout twists where you get to chose for yourself if its true or not, so at least you can half-live with its inclusion).

So yeah, usually I read a Snyder story, balk at some choice because I don’t like it, think the book is lame, then read it again knowing about the choice, and hey – it’s a good book!

Will this work for Zero Year?

Well… no not really. Because there is no such choice with this book. The choice is the book. The whole book. The pacing, the paneling, the tone. Everything.

No. Not everything. The artwork is first rate, phenomenal, exceptional – all the positive words you can think of. The book looks incredible and there are so many pages I love and want as a poster for the wall they’re that great. The red lightning? The colours when he’s making a Bat Symbol out of tied up villians? FUGGEDABOUTIT.

So yeah… the book, as a book for illiterate people is quite pleasant. But… the other aspects sink it.

This book is supposed to be a rollercoaster; an explosive action meets sci-fi adventure (it says so in the liner notes) with bold editing choices and all these sorts of things. How it works out in reality though is like Dillinger Escape Plan’s debut album as a comic book. Its jagged, abrasive, lacking in flow, removed from sensible structure and downright uncomfortable.

Sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? I mean… here’s a guy who likes Prog saying “thing defies convention” – that must be good right? – Well, kinda no. There is a lot of good to be said for Zero Year… but the transgressive thing… that aint it. It’s a large detractor. This book would’ve been way better if it was three issues longer so they could fill in the darn blanks between scenes.

In comic books, I’ve come to expect that between two panels there is a certain minimum and maximum distance that can be crossed, a certain minium and maximum time that can pass… I’ve never thought about or quantified it until right now… all I can tell is that Zero Year disobeys the rules. Rule breaking is probably cool… I mean there’s a reason this blog is called King Crimson Blog and not AC/DC blog, right? But… y’know… “You Shook Me All Night Long” is one heck of a tune too, is it not?

This may just be a failing on my part, but struggling to know which panel follows which is not conducive to flow, as the time wasted searching interrupts the story. Also, in order to fit the word balloons, sentences are frequently reworded and end up feeling damn unnatural (assuming Snyder didn’t just write terrible dialogue – it feels more like medium-related compromise than a hack… and I know he’s not a hack because he writ’ Gates Of Gotham and The Black Mirror which are superb).

Also, the swearing bubbles should match the intended swear words otherwise you waste time guessing the swear and again the story stops flowing naturally.

But yeah… wah wah wah… I’m just a big baby who wants to be spoonfed mediocrity and never to feel uncomfortable. Or am I? Maybe this is just a poorly designed experiment that didn’t pan out. I don’t know… there’s one scene where the too-big gap ends with a vengeful foot on the riddler’s smug face… and in that instance the rule breaking leap actually caused me to laugh out loud… so… there’s that!

The first time I read it too I hated the idea that they are just doing another No Man’s Land and Dark Knight Rises movie idea… Gotham cut off, bridges uncrossable, civilization collapses. Its been done. Then I remembered a good story is a good story no matter what. Its not THAT similar to those other Gotham being cut off stories… and with one being a film and the other being pre-New 52, in this particular comic series it is an innovator.
All the machine gun robots and stuff felt weird and stupid for a set-in-the-past story, but when I thought deep there was advanced technology in all of the New 52 Snyder stories… so, ok I guess. And real life has Amazon drones flying mail across the country….so…

Oh. You know what else though… maybe I’m just stupid… but all the riddles sucked. Just my personal opinion but I wasn’t a fan of a single riddle in this book. Which is a shame for a Riddler story.

Also… Dr. Death’s motivation makes no sense. But… I’ve let Hush off with that..so… hmmm. Oh.. and throwing the “Red Hood One is clearly the Joker, oh wait, maybe he’s not” thing in was cheap. Of course he was… move on. No need to put in some half-baked mystery.

The thing I just hate about the book the most is just that it is too big for itself. The Red Hood Gang story starts halfway through… is plagued by cutaways and then ends with no consequence apart from weakly being tied to the next Dr Death story with a few lines of dialogue – which then that itself is all just a set up for the No Mans Land style bit which follows… so the first 2/3 of the story where a set up for a short-ass 1/3 that isn’t even all of it because its full of cutaways and has to have a resolution.

And in all that time, you’d think the Bruce Wayne character development and the relationships with Gordon and Alfred would have time to mature but no… if anything they feel rushed and weird… there’s just huge blustering conflict and swift unsatisfying resolution. While paradoxically, the main things about Batman being the city’s heartbeat and Bruce wanting to be someone else (BATMAN) are kind of subtle and understated, which feels wrong in a strange way since everything else was so overstated and hammy. Batman says I’ve failed and feels shame for not anticipating a different bomb plot!

And does Gordon’s coat NEED a damn backstory? Come on… its a coat. People wear coats. That’s all anyone needs. Where there legions of fans for the past 75 years going “if they don’t explain the origin story of that coat soon, I’ll stop buying comics”?

I think there was some brilliant stuff here, but it should’ve been about twice as long, with more structure, more background detail, slower pacing and less silliness (Bruce would never give someone the finger, surely? and why would you censor the phrase goddamn but not bastards? – and what kind of a line is “Gothamites are tough bastards, go figure” anyway?). And – ah, never mind. It feels like somebody took a whole new 12 episode first season of a new TV series called “SciFi Batman in an alternative past” (Catchy title, I’d buy that!) and condensed everything into just three comic books. And you just feel like “Dude, all the good bits are missing, they cut this wrong.”

Or maybe its Pulp Fiction and that’s the whole point. Maybe creating moods and asking audiences to write their own background and make their own stories is the whole point and I’m just a lame duck who wants something this was never supposed to be.

The backups of “Bruce Wayne In” stories were cooler than the main book. I’d love to have a whole book of just that but with it all designed from start to finish and told in chronological order, with a few side plots and stuff to flesh it out.

Oh wait… they invented the TV Show Gotham, right? Hopefully that will do just that. (Except it probably wont since its called Gotham, not Bruce Wayne training around the world).

What… the first half of Batman Begins still exists? Ok. Good. Maybe I’ll just watch that then.

Comments?

***Abandoning my usual structure in favour of long diatribes and jumping off half-formed thoughts to unconnected ones – not an intentional parody of Zero Year, but a nice mirror nonetheless***

****UPDATE:*****
I went through the internet to get a sense of what other people were saying and if I was missing stuff. The professional reviewers certainly make it seem like a better story and act as if all the characther development was deep and important and not rushed and unsatisfying as I had called it.

The people however had often a few complaints, which were 1. It shouldn’t be so world-shattering for Batmans first adventure. Its his first outing and he has to overcome such a gigantic city destroying event?
2. It was too long.

I don’t get the whole “it was too long” thing.

I felt that it was about three or four issues too short and that there was too much missing information. It made you “assume what happened” between and before panels too much and never actually showed you, and while yes we’re all intelligent people and hooray for intelligence, it might’ve been nice to just have a complete story with more flow.

Zero Year to me felt like Snyder had written a really good entire tv show season and then only showed the highlights.

It ironically almost needs a prequel of its own.

Also, those backups of Bruce’s pre-Batman globetrotting training were a cool idea… how about someone writes a complete story of all that training from start to finish with a satisfying sense of development and the transitioning of Bruce from angry orphan to Batman. I’d buy that.

I also totally agree with the point that as a prequel it feels like the wrong story to tell. What… Gotham is that badly devastated right at the start? With no lasting impact? No Man’s Land lasted way longer and had a longer lasting impact and it was only the Government stopping people coming or going… not a resourceful supervillian controlling the weather and electronics for the whole city.

And how did they get rid of all the overgrown plants… agent orange? Its not as if the only thing that happened to Gotham was Riddler turned off electricity and turning it back on fixes things… he flooded it, used Poisen Ivy’s science to turn it feral and he knocked over multiple buildings with a bulldozer-crane. That shit aint fixed by turning on the power. (Sure Bruce says in a speach that there’s work to do… but essentially, y’know… New Orleans isn’t fixed six years later… so how is Gotham not still pretty screwed in Owls and DOTF?). I know I know, suspension of disbelief.

Oh… and another thing; was the Riddler really doing it all to find a solution to climate change, overpopulation and world hunger? I don’t buy that, doesn’t feel right. I like the Arkham videogames version of the Riddler as some twisted Saw style serial killer so utterly obsessed with proving his worth that it causes him to become violent. Maybe the climate change line was BS… like the way Bane told the people he was freeing them in the third Nolan movie… it was just something he said in public but wasn’t his actual motivation or plan. Maybe its that?

Actually… a climate change focused enemy might be cool. Maybe it should’ve been Poison Ivy instead?

Hello and welcome to the seventeenth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year-and-a-half buying and reading Batman comics to the point where I personally own over seventy of them now, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

On with the show.

This entry is going to focus on Alan Moore’s sole contribution to the world of Batman; his one-shot graphic novel, The Killing Joke. There’s a lot of interesting opinions about this one. Some people consider it one of the top-four Batman stories of all time alongside The Dark Knight Returns, Year One and Arkham Asylum A Serious House On Serious Earth. Some consider it to be overrated trash. Some people think it is bad for Alan Moore and not up to his usual standard. Some people think it’s the definitive Joker story, others think that its almost blasphemy to give the Joker an origin and also that Batman acts out of character here. Some people hate the way Barbara Gordon was treated and hate it for being too gratuitous.

Grant Morrison thinks it ends with either Batman killing the Joker or vice versa (my memory is foggy after doing too many twelve-hour night-shifts, and not having been to sleep since the last one).

The copy I own is the deluxe edition where its been recolored and printed on nice glossy paper. Some people hate that because it messes with a classic. Some people love it and think it helps it look modern.

Batman – The Killing Joke:
– Writers: Alan Moore
– Art: Brian Bollard
– Colours: (in this case, Brian Bollard)
– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint
– Timeline Position: Mid career, pre-Death In The Family, pre-Kinghtfall.
– Batman is: Bruce Wayne
– Villains: Joker, Some Freaks, Red Hood gang, Danny Weaver
– Cameos: Two Face, Penguin
– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police), Barbara Gordon,
– Bystanders: Jeannie Kerr

– Art: I think everything about this book looks excellent. Its definitely good for its time and held up well. In fact its good even for now.

– Tone: I love the tone here. Its very much like an episode of The Sopranos or any other guns-and-cops HBO show you could think of.

– My Thoughts: Let me address the above points one by one… I do think it deserves to be in that list. I personally don’t think its better than some stories like Long Halloween or Arkham Asylum, nor is it anywhere near as brilliant as Year One, but I think it feels like its supposed to be ‘up there’ and heck, I personally enjoy it more than The Dark Knight Returns.

I haven’t read any other Moore comics so I can’t comment on whether its poor for him, but let me say that if its poor for him, good for him must be astonishing.

I don’t think it ends with a death, not at all. Not subtly, not hinted at, not metaphorical. I think it just ends. It ends with Joker being about to be arrested once again and I reckon it’s a statement on the banality of the repetition of the endless arrest/crime Joker cycle rather than any secret murder.

I love how this book looks. I read the original coloured version too a about a year ago so its not that I haven’t seen both. I just like it. I like pretty glossy paper. I like big easy-to-read print and I like this colour palate a lot. It’s a bit more Arkham videogame series and a bit less Watchmen comic. I love The Watchmen’s story and art (oh wait, that was Moore wasn’t it? Damn… Yeah, this aint as good as that!) but not necessarily the colour scheme.

I also don’t mind the Barbara thing, and all the slightly sinister, uncomfortable rapey overtones that some people complain about. I think it works well and gives the story a lot of serious dramatic weight. Makes it feel a bit Mystic River.

It was good for a book to point out ‘hey, Batman is a bit of an insane idea’ and even though it started a thing that people can get sick of, it works well here in this book.

Basically, I think this is a nice, tight, enjoyable book, with a sensible length and good pacing. I enjoy it more than the bloated Knightfall, but wouldn’t call it a favourite.

Down - Down IV Part II

Down – Down IV Part II

Down IV Part 2 is the American Metal super-group Down’s 2014 release. As its title suggests, it is the second in a series of EPs released under the Down IV title, following up 2012’s “Down IV Part I – The Purple EP.” It was produced by Michael Thompson along with the band themselves and released independently.

This was the band’s first official release without longtime member Kirk Weinstein of Crowbar fame, who is replaced here by Bobby Landgraf. Ironically, this EP is probably closer in sound to Crowbar than to Pantera, Eyehategod or Corrosion Of Conformity (the other groups besides Crowbar that the band are usually associated with).

First up, for an EP, this is actually pretty substantial, a total running time of almost 37 minutes leaves it longer than many albums anyway.

The focus of songwriting this time around seems to focus on the heavier, mid-paced side of the band’s repertoire. I don’t think the distinction between EPs 1 & 2 is all that strict, as in, its not a clear cut case of one has all the fast songs, one has all the slow songs, or one has all the basic songs and the other has all the progressive songs. This EP is essentially more of the Down mid-ground. Its not the most “instant” release in their catalogue, and may take a few spins to really get to grips with, but if you give it the time it asks for, you’ll get the rewards it promises.

Highlights include the brief “Hogshead/Dogshead,” and “Sufferer’s Years,” which is particularly catchy with its “I hate this time of year” sing-along, and the fat ‘60s/’70s sounding riffs in the pre-chorus. It is a nice mixture of the band’s Doom, Sludge & Stoner sides, approaching vintage Hard Rock in 2014 from multiple angles. This is perhaps the most definitively “Down” track on the album, and hopefully it will become a concert staple.

The record ends with the almost nine-minute long “Bacchanalia,” one of the looser and more jam-feeling songs on the record. You imagine it got its title from the drunken party in which it probably spawned (as opposed to a secret love of Batman No Man’s Land). This track in turn ends with a softer acoustic moment, likely foreshadowing Down IV Part 3 as the promised all-acoustic EP originally mentioned when the band come up with splitting the album into different EPs.

Overall; this is not necessarily bold new ground for the band, and the focus on mostly similar direction material may leave some fans feeling an acute lack of variety or excitement, but for what it is, to me personally, Down IV Part II is an entertaining collection of Down songs and a worthy addition to the catalogue. If you’re burned out by the formula, or want something fresh and new from these guys, maybe give it a miss, but if you can’t get enough Down, then by all means jump on board.

Hello and welcome once more to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 55. 55 days without buying myself anything. (Actually I can’t remember if I bought anything on the exact last day before the challenge, so it might be like, y’know, 60 days or something overall… my memory is fuzzy. 55 for sure though.

Anyway; I did a bad thing guys! I placed a bid on Batman Contagion on eBay, so unless someone outbids me, I’ll have broken the challenge tomorrow… woops. Lesson learned: “Don’t go on eBay during these challenges!” Common sense really… I also damn nearly bought a W.A.S.P. vinyl for my wall that I have absolutely no call to be buying in my current financial situation, but I snapped myself out of that pretty quickly. Its just that contagion was on the wishlist for so long (like Batman Cataclysm too) and it always sells for stupidly high prices like £33 or whatever, and seeing it at £4 was exciting. Oh well, it’s a process. Also hopefully I’ll be outbid and dodge this failure-bullet narrowly.

Fingers crossed.

Now here’s what I’ve been distracting myself with recently:

Any one song in isolation is excellent. The intro is even excellent. Russ’ voice sounds better than ever. There are great guitar solos and a decent production sound. There’s even guest appearances from other Bay Area Thrash heroes.

That being said… this album has gone from “Yay, they’re back!” to “Meh” pretty quickly. I’ve more or less ignored it since the year it come out. I think the problem is that there isn’t enough variety, there isn’t enough speed, and that all the songs are about a minute-too-long (Exodus disease).

The title-track is actually really fast at times, and pretty varied, I don’t think I’d noticed before because the album wore me down before that point most times. Anyway, yeah, doesn’t work as an album so much, but any of the songs in a playlist is excellent.

This is a classic. I like it a lot. Its got a good balance between their Slayer-esque side and their more Anthrax-sounding riffs. Its technical but not overwhelming, its aggressive but not just pointless hammering. There’s a surprising depth and more softness and melody than you may remember. Great album.

Another birthday gift. The latest one to be opened. I’ve waited almost a whole month to open it. It’s a pretty damn good album, just as I expected. There’s a lot of AC/DC sounding moments, along with the Speed Metal of “Fast As A Shark” and “Flash Rocking Man.” Also, it has “Demon’s Night” as covered by Cannibal Corpse. I already like “Princess Of The Dawn” and “Neon Nights” from the live Blu Ray that came with Blind Rage.

I read a few people say this album is inconsistent. I don’t hear it. This is all good stuff, and deservedly considered a classic.

Sometimes when I haven’t heard this in a while, I mistakenly think that I don’t like it. While I certainly could live without “You Aint The First” or “Live And Let Die” (or “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” for that matter, and also I always feel cheated by the two “Don’t Cry” versions…one is enough!) and I have to be in the right mood to enjoy “The Garden,” “Bad Obsession” or “Coma,” that still leaves over two-thirds of the album as certified awesome.

The fast heavy material like “Right Next Door To Hell,” “Perfect Crime,” “Don’t Damn Me,” “Garden Of Eden,” “Double Talkin Jive,” and “Back Off Bitch” is all exciting, energetic and enjoyable. They keep that spirit of Appetite’ alive. People often forget this material is on here too. I often forget it myself. They should release a version for Metal fans that starts off with all of these tracks first, and loses the acoustic tracks and covers. That would stop all the Appetite-whinging.

Also, “Dust N Bones” though not heavy, has been one of my all time favourite GnR songs since my very first listen of it. It is excellent.

Also, “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry” are awesome. Its just that I associate them with idiots from my high-school. When they catch me unawares I remember just how good a song they each are. They are fantastic.

Sometimes I think of this album as being 60% acoustic, 30% cover songs and trumpets, and 10% good. This is way, way, way off the mark. Excellent album. Also, as it happens, I indeed was in the mood for “Coma” this time.

I’m really becoming very, very fond of Hammerfall indeed. I just can’t stop cranking this and their debut. It also keeps getting better on new listens. Such a fun, entertaining, easily digestible band! They’re the musical equivalent of popcorn.

Hello and welcome once more to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 52. 52 days without buying myself anything. I think that’s a new record. I don’t think, since getting my first job at 16, ten years ago, that I’ve ever went this long without buying something along the lines of a book, cd, dvd, videogame etc. for myself. I’m a big old spoiled Western consumer of the hardest core.

I’m also tempted to break my pledge not to buy anything because Batman Contagion is on eBay at the minute for only £4 and that’s been on my wishlist for a year now. Time will only tell if I break my resolve and buy it. Maybe someone else will buy it first and the problem will go away.

I’ve also saw in town a shop selling In The Court Of The Crimson King on Vinyl. Its £17 though, and for my use of it as merely a poster for my wall, that’s not worth it. Why is no one selling it used for £3? Anyway…

Its been an excellent few weeks. I’ve been eating super healthy (constant soups full of dozens of veg, and smoothies full of dozens of fruit and veg, adding spinach to normal meals, eating less meat, massively reducing my intake of junk food, almost giving up chocolate completely) and I’ve been exercising a lot (going for walks almost daily, lifting weights frequently). Most of this was in the sun and away from the city, but even this last week when I did return to the city, I’ve kept it up. I even kept it up yesterday on my first day back at Uni. Next week, with a return to work, and full-week Uni, will be the real challenge.

At any rate, everyone is telling me I’ve lost weight. To the point where I actually believe it. Take home message: get more vitamins and go for walks = Thin Jim. Hopefully I can keep it up.

During this time, I’ve been experiencing the delights of Manowar, the new Down EP, a whole heap of Accept, some early Savatage, and trying out Minor Threat.

I’ve also been gifted a butt-load of comics related stuff which I shall try tonight after weightlifting. Those two things, lifting and comics, (with a healthy dose of Hammerfall in the background), should help me stay off eBay and avoid breaking my pledge.

Also, my house mates got me the newest Judas Priest and Trivium albums, as well as Ozzy’s Tribute live album with Randy Rhodes, and Soundgarden’s recently reissued debut EP, Screaming For Life/Fopp. I’ll deny myself these goodies now, and open them in a month, so I have something to look forward to in a month, and hopefully that will stop me buying any new music between now and then. Even if buying Raven or Tank albums on iTunes is tempting….

Anyway; here’s what else I’ve been up to, in order to distract myself from my materialism.

First off, for my own entertainment, and your information, I’ve complied the following list:

Albums I Have Fallen Completely Obsessively In Love With, in roughly chronological order of it happening:

Protest The Hero – Kezia
Gallows – Grey Britain
Helloween – Keeper Of The Seven Keys Parts 1 & 2
Queensryche – Operation Mindcrime
Accept – Stalingrad
Rishloo – Feathergun
Chimaira – The Infection
Mastodon – Crack The Skye
Kiss – Alive
Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick
Gentle Giant – Octopus
Pink Floyd – The Wall
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am’
Forbidden – Forbidden Evil
Megadeth – So Far So Good So What
Anthrax – Among The Living
Pantera – Vulgar Display Of Power
Powerman 5000 – Tonight The Stars Revolt
Jetplane Landing – Once Like A Spark
The Libertines – S/T
Mudvayne – The End Of All Things To Come
Slipknot – S/T
Green Day – Warning

I also had huge Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Napalm Death and Monster Magnet periods, but no single album ended up getting the focus of that huge obsession. Zyklon, Carpathian Forest, Mars Volta, Riverside and Gamma Ray are all almost up there for an album each (Aeon, Defending The Throne Of Evil, Ochtahedron, ADHD and Land Of The Free) but I can’t bring myself to fully commit to writing them down for some reason. Motley Crue’s Theater Of Pain is kind of getting this way at the minute so we’ll see how it pans out, its probably the newest name on the list. Some that are up there have faded, but some are as strong as ever.

Now here’s what I’ve been distracting myself with recently, excluding the aforementioned birthday gifts (I’ve been absolutely hammering Manowar, and that new Fratellis album):









I really like the Alice In Chains demo “Social Parasite” …its quite good fun.

I’m thinking of digging into some really under-listened albums next, like the Napalm Death covers albums, Anathema’s Falling Deeper, Sodom’s debut, Fear Factory’s Soul Of A New Machine and Forbidden’s Green. Then I think, maybe I listen to them so little because they aren’t good.

I remember going back and listening to all my Nu Metal albums like Static X and Spineshank and Ill Nino for a similar reason, but I never blogged about it because I was so snowed under with Uni essays at the time. I found that to be be a worthy exercise for surprise enjoyment (“Ostego Undead” is more fun than I remember), so maybe listening to records that I think of as duds may prove worthwhile too.

I’ll let you know what I chose. Right now I’m off to lift weights while watching the Justice League cartoon. See you soon…

Hello and welcome once more to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 42, and I haven’t spent anything new thank goodness, I’m actually on track. This time last year I was rolling around in Batman and Dredd Blu Rays, picking up White Zombie and Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots albums, picking up about 7 concert tickets and about 14 Batman TPBs, and generally just quickly and almost violently spending all the money I’d earned from working in a media-centered retail outlet all summer.

This September however, I’m not spending anything. I’m thinking of extending this already-extended challenge to be yet another month long as well. So… that’d be no purchases from August 1st all the way to November 1st. My reasoning for this is that I could use that money for fruit and vegetables. Also, I didn’t work this summer like I usually do so its not like the aforementioned that money is much anyway. I’ve got bills to pay people!

Also… I have so much stuff already. And so much borrowed stuff on top of that. And access to so much free stuff on the internet (how many comedy video shows like Zero Punction and web comics are there anyway? And how many bands like Miroist give their music away for free on bandcamp?). I could re-read each of my Graphic Novels, read all the books I got in the last two years again, re-read all my Game Of Thrones (Song Of Ice And Fire) books, listen to all the albums I rarely listen to, play through the backlogue of videogames I haven’t finished (or even started for some of ‘em) yet, and hey, I’ve got Netflix and so there’s always something to watch.

What’s the reason to buy new things anyway?

Apart from my burning need to buy things of course… (the hungry deamon who screams in my brain to ‘spend, spend, spend,”) and the fact that one thing leads to another (as discussed here by my talented friend Paul), in so much as if I read Batman, I’ll want more Batman…if I play God Of War I’ll want more similar video games, If I listen to a certain band, I’ll want more similar music.

Heck; on that tip, I got books about Black and Death Metal for my birthday from Paul (cheers, generous!) and once I read them that’ll make me want to buy Death and Black Metal albums mentioned inside.

…but apart from all that … I think I could do it. I think I could go three months purchase-free, just enjoying what I’ve already got. Getting to grips with what I’ve got. Getting into what I paid for… I think you can consider the challenge extended folks!

Anyway… here’s what I’ve been listening to whilst weightlifting, walking and wanking spending time on facebook for the last few days:


This is one of my favourite album discoveries of the past few years. This album is so well-crafted, so catchy and such good fun. Its also one of their most consistent, filler-free, and exciting albums… one where everything just “comes together” and becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It really is “the 3rd Keeper Of The Seven Keys” like people say it is. Its definitely my number three favourite Power Metal album behind those two aforementioned Keeper gems.

Continuing on a Power Metal theme, I finished the weights yesterday by listening to the melodic Metal stylings of Sweeden’s Hammerfall. This is a really solid and enjoyable album indeed. I’m not sick of it yet at all. Its been a sort of soundtrack to the summer. It is a really motivating album to exercise to as well, the sound of it just inspires activity and dedication. Something about the clean vocals just makes you want to do push-ups. I think if they played this sort of glorious victorious music in high school Phis-Ed classes (or “PE” for us Brits), there’d be much less fat kids. Maybe there’d be higher sales of Dungeons & Dragons and replica swords too, which could offset the economic disaster that thin kids would cause by not buying Big Macs and diabetes medicine, maybe.

Ok. No. I think its just me. I’m sure the average jock thug wouldn’t want Hammerfall during his dodgeball bullying time.

Can you tell I’ve watched much US teen television? Thought so….

I haven’t listened to this album in yonks. I think that’s because I temporarily lost it when I lent it to a former guitarist of a band I was in, on a day we were going to see Gama Bomb and Onslaught live. Turns out he was in Uni with Gama Bomb’s bassist and I got to meet the band and get into the gig for free. Good evening! I left this album in his car though, that’s the only downside.

That was probably one of the last nights I listened to it, even if it is in my iTunes library. Also, that was probably the first time I’d listened to it in a few years. I liked this band during my Thrash-obsessed teens, but they really were just “one more thrash band” to put into my metaphorical hungry maw. (Also literal hungry maw, hence all the weight-loss now). I mean look at me around the time I was listening to this album regularly:

Anyway… yeah, this album reminds me a lot of Slayer’s Hell Awaits in terms of its slightly ploddy nature and slightly weird black production job. Its thrash, its got solos and double kicks and all that good stuff. Its just a bit dull overall, but still good if that makes sense? Its talented enjoyable stuff… but every song is about a minute too long, and the album is about a song too long, and every idea is about one unit of plagiarism too many to get truly excited about. Still… its nice to hear it again after all these years since I first picked it up (2004? 2005?).

Now this was a real favourite of mine in my teen years. This is a brilliant album. I’m not sure why I am not listening to it regularly now… other than the fact that NEW STUFF NEW STUFF NEW STUFF SO MUCH NEW STUFF

Ahem, excuse me. But yes, Overkill’s Taking Over is a brilliant record. I don’t think there’s a single song on it I’d loose. I like Bobby’s voice on this album the best of any in the discography too. And the production is charming, with an excellent guitar tone. Also it has “In Union We Stand” on it. How can you argue with that? Fun, Fun, Fun!

I’ve been listening to this a lot recently anyway, but I generally squeeze new stuff in with the old stuff on these GITWYPF endeavors anyway… so, what the heck?

This is my favourite Dokken album. I think Back For The Attack is better and my favourite two songs (“Lightnin Strikes Again” & “Til The Livin End”) are on Under Lock And Key, but this one is my favourite album overall. The variety, the charm, the guitar solos, the choruses! Its all so good. Also the album is succinct and entertaining and doesn’t ever get samey.

I listened to this and Heartwork last night upon realizing that I’d gotten a lend of them over a year ago and never actually returned them (woops). Anyway, yeah, I like the idea of them, and there’s loads of riffs, vocal patterns and fills I like…. But each album is a bit tiring. Any song in isolation, yup. The famous songs like “Keep On Rotting In The Free World” “Tomorrow Belongs To Nobody” “Heart Work” etc. are all absolute gems, but deep album tracks all in a row aren’t as entertaining and can find me zoning out a little. Sorry!

I’ve had this album almost for as long as I’ve been into Metal, I got it pretty early in my time in high school. I rarely listened to it (if at all) after I left high school. I seem to remember it being almost 100% d-beats with very little variety, excluding the title track, which is awesome. (I’m always disappointed by how the title track isn’t as good live on the Monkey Puss DVD, and also the fact that the cool bit at the end is a “cover” and not just invented by the band).

Well, my memory was half-right. The title track is indeed awesome. But there’s way more variety than I remembered. Its not all d-beats. The drumming is really impressive actually. There’s some seriously inventive and impressive kick work and fills on here. This is a damned decent album! I think I’ll be listening to this more often nowadays!

I really enjoyed this. I stuck it on tonight. Its basically just a good, catchy Thrash album when all is said and done. Or at least the best songs are. The unarguably Death songs (eg. “Blaspherion”) are maybe the weakest moments for my own personal taste, but otherwise, this is some damn catchy enjoyable stuff. “Dead By Dawn” is great fun. Also, even “Blaspherion” has awesome drums, and some great sections in the middle and towards the end!

I like that this album is short. It’s a short, sharp, exciting blast of energy. It feels passionate. Its kind of that Reign In Blood thing… Succinct, powerful, effective. I think too much of this might get a bit old, but this is a nice snack (for my hungry maw, remember?).

This is not short. It is not Reign In Blood-esque by any stretch of the imagination (save for talent, of course). It is however, really impressive. Surprisngly groovy, musical and listenable, the album is really rather interesting. Its just outside my brain’s comfort zone, so I only enjoy it in a sort of technical way, I’m an observer who can tell that it is good, but I’m not actually enjoying it myself on a gut level. Oh well, maybe with more listens or some other band to “unlock” it for me, it will become a favourite once my objective admiration for it synchs with my gut-reaction.

Speaking of gut reaction…. Boy, this is a banger. Those riffs! Those riffs! Those riiiifs!
I don’t think I’ve found an extreme Metal band that better connects with me on a gut level than the mighty Melechesh (Napalm Death and Zyklon are the closest, but Melechesh do it more consistently).

“Ladders To Sumeria” for example just slays! That reoccurring riff is the bee’s knees. I can’t explain it properly in words, but it’s the “key” riff of the song, so just listen to it, and that riff you find yourself loving… it’ll be that one!

Another new one mixed in with the oldies. I like it a lot. “Demon’s Whip” is a great song, balancing their fast and slow sides well. “The Power Of Thy Sword” is my favourite on the album… it is pure outrageous Gamma Ray style fun!

The only complaint I have at all is that the drum solos and bass solo in “Achilles” rob its momentum, but the fact that they represent parts of the story through sound (the forging of armour etc) is cool enough to forgive that problem.

Ok. That’s enough for one article. Consider the challenge extended and have a good evening.