Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Heavy Metal Cover Girls: Look Out! She's Got A Violin!

Welcome once again to the wonderful world of Rock/Metal cover art. This time around we're going to meet some marvelous musical maidens.  Try not to cough during the performance.
Trust me. These ladies may do more than glare at you.

Mantus - Demut (Germany 2010)

Beautiful woman with violin cover art.
An elegant young lady seeks out a quiet corner to practice her music. ..
Why is there a whole mess of human bones just lying there?
Let's just back away before she sees us, shall we?

Mandragora Negra - Suenos De Realidad (Spain 2012)

So I'm assuming there's some hidden meaning here, or some symbolism at play.
And if anybody knows what it is, drop me an email. Try to use short words, please. 

Here's what they sound like. Melodic Power Metal and not bad, either.

Mago De Oz - Love And Oz (Spain 2011)

A nice elegant cover, and a nice, elegant, young cover girl. 
(I can't actually read Spanish but as far as I can tell, 
this is a compilation of Ballads from the Iberian folk-rockers. )

Another Spanish band and another violin -toting angel.
That's probably just a statistical fluke. 

Secret Signs -For A Lifetime (Spain 2012)

Violin purists are probably going "How will she get a decent tone out of that?
And where's her bloody bow?"
Meanwhile the rest of us are wondering why we never see nudist angels when we go roaming the woods.
Horseshit, lager cans and the odd redfaced jogger are more common round my way. 

Seven Dark Eyes - ...Across Oneiric lands (Italy 2008) 

Well a wandering swordswoman needs to have a hobby.
You can't be slaying and slaughtering 24/7, can you?

(BTW "Oneiric" means "Pertaining to dream". You're welcome.)  

All the covers so far have had a certain elegance to them, maybe even a touch of the wistful.
Time to take the blatant fanservice up a notch. .

Eden's Curse - Symphony Of Sin (USA/Germany/Italy 2013)

I would like this cover a lot more if it weren't for two things.
The leaves superglued to her boobs. 
Sorry, but that just smacks of the record label panicking.
"Quick, Cover up her nips."
Otherwise it's quite well done in an arty calendar sort of way.

Here's what they sound like:
Pretty good if you ask me.
I don't suppose there's any chance of you lot visiting Portsmouth is there? 

That's all folks. 

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Anime: The World Of Narue (2003)

  Teenager Kazuto Izuka is a thoroughly ordinary teenage boy. Narue Nanase is an unusual teenage girl who claims to be an alien. Most people think she's a weirdo looking for attention but when Kazuto is attacked by a bizarre mutant dog-monster, he's rescued by Narue and her trusty baseball bat.
 It's when she reveals that she can teleport that things get interesting.

As it turns out, she was telling the truth all along.

  Urusei Yatsura, Ah! My Goddess, Video Girl Ai, Tenchi Muyo,  Onegai Teacher, Kanokon...
  Anime has a long and proud tradition of pairing hapless teenage boys up with girls who have something special about them. In fact, there's a reason series like this are known as MagicalGirlfriend anime. There's quite a few of them too.
 And that might be the problem I have with this series. It's definitely not the worst anime I've ever seen. (There's a blog post I'll manage one day.) but there's very little here that another series hasn't already done and usually better.

  Kazuto and Narue are likeable enough, I suppose, but aren't particularly memorable and since they pair up in episode one there's no real progression in their relationship. No real drama either. They just sort of pootle along having mildly amusing adventures.

 The first episode suggests that Narue might have to spend time fighting off hostile aliens but they don't bother showing up again until the very last episode.  Narue's sister shows up midway through but after the initial kerfuffle, slots neatly into the cast as though she'd been there all along. There's a UFO-obsessed classmate who is determined to unravel Narue's "secret" - but sends the entire 12 episodes utterly failing to notice that something is going on.

 You get the idea. Plot threads that nobody picks up on. A story that has only the sketchiest underlying arc. Characters that aren't as interesting as they ought to be.
To use a Buckaroo Banzai quote: This series goes nowhere and does nothing.

 World of Narue isn't horrendous but it's the anime equivalent of  digestive biscuits -  something to resort to when you haven't anything more interesting available.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Metal Project: Through Metal And Madness

The Metal Project. The answer to the question: How many heavy metal songs can you find on Youtube with "Metal" in the title? 

 Another selection with no real theme to it.  Have you ever heard of the dog breed the "Bitsa"? (As in "Bitsa dis...Bitsa dat") Well this selection is like that.

Cult Of The Fox - Through Metal And Madness (Sweden 2011)

(Unpretentious old-school stuff with a bit of a crunch to it.)
Honour to: metalboundrecords

Angorya - Hermanos Del Metal (Argentina 2010)

(Thrashers proving once again that Spanish is perfectly suited for Heavy Metal)
Honour to: pablocostan

Electric Eels - Metal Star (USA 2010)

(The date above is misleading, apparently this is from a compilation of unreleased material, I'm guessing from the 1980s. 
US HM with some flourishes.)
Honour to: DisciplineOfSteel

Hellchild - Speed Metal Hell (Japan 1999)

(Whipsaw thrash. Vocals are a bit of an acquired taste, mind you.
Takes an unexpected turn towards the end. )  
Honour to: HELLCHILDFAN101

Titan - Metalfever (Germany 1987)

(Instrumental but not bad at all.
Makes me wish there was a version around recorded with an actual budget.) 
Honour to: heavymetaller1978

And now, a rare opportunity to post something from the ladies.

Show-Ya -Metallic Woman (Japan 1990)

(Classy hard rock with some neat guitar)
 Honour to: CATFIGHT6666

  Destillery - Heavy Metal (Germany 1999)

(I'm just going to to come right out with it. These guys really like their early Maiden. The bassist especially)
Honour to: 666MetalLove666

And finally...

Witches Mark - Bringers of Heavy Metal Death (USA 2013)

(Sits on the border between USPM and Thrash.
I'm trying to work out who the vocalist reminds me of.
Ah well. It'll come to me.)
Honour to: WitchesMark

That's all folks.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Valkyrie: Prisoner Of The Past (Eclipse 1987)

  Former WW2 fighter ace Valkyrie woke from her forty year magical slumber to find the world had moved on. The man she loved is dead. The few friends that remain are old and grey-haired.
  But there is somebody else who remembers the beautiful, raven-haired pilot. And he has a score to settle. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Film: Space Battleship Yamato (2010)

Takuya Kimura
Meisa Kuroki
Toshiro Yanagiba
Naota Ogata
Hiroyuki Ikeuchi
Shin'ichi Tsutsumi
Reiko Takashima

Based on the 1974 Anime Series

 For five years the  enigmatic aliens known as the Gamilas have been battering the Earth with their missiles, systematically turning the planet into a radioactive waste. 
  But then a capsules arrives from space with schematics for a new warp engine - and coordinates for the planet Iskandar.
 The reborn Yamato, Earth's last battleship, is dispatched on a desperate mission that may be humanity's last hope for survival.

  The first thing you have to remember is that this film is based on an anime. Specifically an anime tv series from the 1970s. The writers had to pare the events of 26 episodes down into slightly more than 2 hours and in the process a lot of plot points and development got somewhat compressed. 
  This might explain why hero Kodai can walk onto the ship as a new recruit then literally 5 minutes later he's not only an officer but in charge of the brand new secret weapon. This sort of thing is standard in anime, trust me.

   So, once you've tuned yourself to the proper wavelength, what you get is an old-fashioned space-opera with elements reminiscent of "Star Trek", "Star Wars" and "Starship Troopers".
  It's not stunningly original but "Yamato" plays the old riffs with enough style to get away with it and enough twist to the tale to make it that little bit fresher.

   Visually this film looks good. The Gamilas spaceships are disturbingly organic, like the bastard offspring of a zombie starfish and a Henry Moore sculpture, and I have to admit that there is something fundamentally right about seeing a WW2 battlewaggon soaring through space with all guns blazing.

 Like a lot of Anime heroes Kodai is initially a bit of a tool but matures out of it. I was slightly less impressed with heroine Mori's character path. She's introduced as a sharp-tongued fighter ace with a tendency to get punchy, and does get in a  few cool moments, but by film's end she's relegated to the role of love interest and getting dragged hither and yon like a hapless 1940s movie damsel. Shame.
 The rest of the supporting cast are sketched in with sufficient depth to make them worth caring about. I particularly liked ships medic Doctor Sado  - usually carrying an enormous bottle of sake around with her and often a cat as well.
  One particular character might as well have "Dies in the next scene" in neon letters on his forehead but that's about par for the course.
 If we're quibbling, one particular moment in the  climax dips into cringeworthy but maybe that's just me. You'll recognise it when you see it.

Summing up: A fun slice of old-fashioned, spacefaring heroics with no attempt at deconstruction or knowing camp and all the better for it.

 Since posts with pics are always guaranteed to get double the pageviews, here's a few screenshots.

 The wise Captain Okita. For some reason I find myself thinking about fish fingers

Susumu Kodai looks puzzled.
The initial relationship between these two, summed up in one photo.

The lovely Yuki Mori looking peeved.

She looks a lot happier here.
 Dr Sado gives Kodai a checkup. Or possibly a singing lesson.

This is coolness. 
Why has the ship still got an anchor?
Why not?

And here's the trailer.

That's all folks

Saturday, 12 October 2013

My Top Ten...Cheesy (but fun) 80s Rock Videos.

  One of my biggest gripes with the current Metal music scene is that while the videos are vastly improved in terms of production values and lighting they aren't what you would call fun.
Way too many vids feature a band in a warehouse. Those going for something a bit more epic are almost inevitably in muted colours and going for the statement. "We're artistic, so we are."

Don't get me wrong. There's some great videos out there. (Nightwish immediately spring to mind.) but I do kinda miss the days when Heavy Metal/Hard Rock bands weren't afraid to wear bright colours and wave toy guns.

 So, just for the hell of it, here's a selection of 80s Rock vids featuring women with big hair, men with big hair, dubious acting, bands not afraid to wear yellow spandex and above all...FUN.

  Just to make things a bit more interesting, I'm not going to include some of the big names you'd expect. If you like your 80s rock then chances are you have already seen   "Breaking the Law", "I Wanna Rock", "Hot For Teacher" and "Gimme All Your Loving" a dozen times over.  Hopefully some of these will come as a pleasant surprise.

Let's start with an under-rated band, a video with a very simple idea and quite a nifty guitar solo.

Autograph - Send Her to Me (USA 1985)

(I'm guessing the director only heard the chorus before planning this vid.
Also, is it weird that my favourite girl in this video is the one right at the end?
It's the way she smiles.)
Honour to: teokeh00

Helter Skelter - Dr. Jekyll (Germany 1988)

(Obscure Teutonic glam rockers ham it up in some very peculiar outfits indeed.
The lead singer in particular is wearing trousers that Dave Lee Roth would order taken away and burned.  )
Honour to: Deathrose1985

Lionheart - Die For Love (UK 1984)

(A NWOBHM "Supergroup" that included ex-members of Iron Maiden, Tygers Of Pan Tang among others
 but never quite managed to keep a stable lineup.
 The video features the band as the most conspicuous commandos in military history)
Honour to: HardRockas

It's been a bit lightweight so far so how about something a bit heavier?

Savatage - Hall Of The Mountain King (USA 1987)

(In which the band terrorise an unfortunate dwarf.
After this Savatage started getting more ambitious but here they are pure US Metal,
showcasing the late Criss Oliva's guitar talents and brother Jon's trademark evil laugh.
My battle-jacket has a Savatage patch in prime position on the back. I wear it with pride ) 
Honour to: earMUSIC
   Incidentally, there's a great story from the making of the "Hall.." promo. Supposedly the little person who was the star of the vid spent the best part of  48 hours solid glued into his makeup and costume, surviving on liquids and even sleeping in the damn thing.Yet he still kept going like an utter trooper.
  Nobody could work out where he was getting his energy from until the director walked into the gents toilet and found lead singer Jon Oliva holding the dwarf upside down, a straw up his nose, over an enormous line of cocaine. 
 "Jon." sighed the auteur. "Put the dwarf down and let's get back to work."

Zebra - Tell Me What You Want  (1983)

(A band that always had more in common with Rush than Ratt so the vid has aspirations to some sort of artistic statement. 
As with a lot of early 80s vids the end result is ...peculiar.)

Honour to: Ryder276

I blame all that smoke. You didn't think it was dry ice, did you?

Bullet - I Sold My Soul To Rock And Roll (Germany 1984)

(Gonzoid German boogie merchants - famous for one of the tackiest album covers of all time - with their version of the Faust legend. 
Badly choreographed dancing girls a bonus.)
 Honour to: JMZilver

Queensryche - Queen Of The Reich (USA 1983)

 (A video that Queensryche don't like to talk about these days. Wonder why?)
Honour to: QueensrycheVEVO

 Grim Reaper - Fear No Evil (UK 1984)

(Another of those vids where the band arrive to save the day)
Honour to: andrewotherside7

Compare and contrast with..

Zodiac Mindwarp And the Love Reaction - Prime Mover (UK 1987)

(Where a bunch of filthy grebos use an armoured car to bust into a girls school and corrupt the obviously-not-teenaged inhabitants with the power of Sleaze rock)
Honour to: artfairy?

Y&T - Don't Stop Running (USA 1984)

(In which a lovelorn geek gets to play hero)

Honour to: JohnFindlater

Obviously there were all sorts of bands I could have used: Helix, Honeymoon Suite, W.A.S.P, Saxon, Raven, Killer Dwarfs...

Screw it. Just as a bonus (And to show you how many band-plays-hero vids there were in the 80s) I present for your consideration a vid that didn't make it into the above list due to being black and white.

 Thor - Knock 'Em Down (Canada 1985)

Honour to: Epitaph6663

That's all folks.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Terrible Metal Album Covers Chapter 20

I have been asked "You post a lot of album covers with women on them. How about some with men for a change?"  

No, hang on a mo, I've been asked this by literally nobody  but, just for the sake of fairness, today's post has the theme of ...

Manly men doing manly things.
But drawn badly. 
You can imagine that the artist was naked if you like

I'm going to regret this, I know I am....

Centvrion - Non Plus Ultra (Italy 2002)

Why is he glowing?
Why is he apparently fondling a shotgun?
How are you supposed to pronounce "Centvrion" anyway?

Contagious - Free Indeed (USA 1988)

A Christian band which explains the symbolism.
Although I still don't understand why the devil in the background doesn't seem to have any feet.

Cryonic - Kings Of Avalon  (Sweden 2010)

How much do you want to bet that the band aren't that well-defined in real life?

Dwarr - Animals (USA 1986)

Our muscular Rock warrior had to stand like that for almost ten minutes before any of the Morlocks finally noticed his dramatic arrival. He then had to scuttle behind a rock and rub the life back into his badly-cramped arm.  Ah well. Even Conan had a few duff entrances in his time. 

Mistress - Heavy Mental (USA 2013)

Well she seems unexpectedly cheerful about being decapitated.

Scavenger - Battlefields (Belgium 1985)

Ah, the classic "sun-bronzed barbarian and his savage she-devil" idea.
Let down by the artist having only the vaguest idea how to draw jawlines.  
I'm not kidding. Take a look at this art again. It's not bad - right up until you  take a close look at their faces.

And I've been saving this one for last. 

You ready ladies?

Ezy Meat - Not for Wimps (UK 1984)

There's a few reasons nude motorcycling never took off in the UK. 
Some nasty cases of Gravel Rash after accidents. Public disapproval. Wind-chill factor.
But most of all... once petrol stations found out where he was keeping his wallet, they refused to serve him.

That's all folks.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Book Review: Christopher L Bennett - Only Superhuman

2107. Generations ago, Earth and the other cislunar colonies banned genetic and cybernetic modifications. But out in the Asteroid Belt, anything goes. Dozens of flourishing space habitats are spawning exotic new socieites - and strange new varieties of human. It's a volatile situation that threatens the peace and stability of the entire solar system.
 Emerald Blair is a Troubleshooter. Inspired by the classic super-hero comics of previous centuries, she's joined with other mods to try and police the unruly Asteroid Belt. But her loyalties are tested when she finds herself torn between rival factions of superhumans with very different agendas. Emerald wants to put her special abilities to good use, and atone for her scandalous past, but what do you do when you can't tell the heroes from the villains? 

I was in Southampton's Forbidden Planet last Saturday, and was ambling towards the cashier when I noticed the book cover you're currently looking at.
 Redhead with a blaster pistol?
Consider my interest piqued.
 The back cover blurb sounded promising too. Basically "Superheroes in a realistic SF setting."
So, I thought "What the hell" added it to my pile of reading material and broke out the debit card.

  I have to admit that initially I struggled with this book. It opens well, with heroine Emry and her mentor battling modded terrorists intent on mass murder, but after that it gets a bit dry.
 Bennett's world-building is good, creating a well thought-out system of satellite colonies, modified humans and social divisions. Baseline humans are paranoid about those with modifications. The inhabitants of the Asteroid Belt are wary of Earth sticking her nose into their business. Some people just want to get on with their lives, some want to kick the Universe until it cracks.
 So if you're looking for debate on such issues you might get more out of this than I did.
 Frankly I was hoping for more Superheroics and less cerebral Sf. There's a lot of debating and a lot of explaining and not nearly enough punching of naughty people.
 The writing can seem a bit dry and wordy sometimes, so I was reading the words without really feeling the moment. I like to get lost in a book. Here I was peering in through the window.
 I also found it hard to feel sympathetic for Emerald , one particular incident sending my opinion of her right down the tubes.

  However, the pace picks up in the last third of the book, the various plots and counter-plots start colliding with each other and Emerald gets a crucial bit of character development that made me like her again.  Oh, and the climax involves a respectable amount of action so "Only Superhuman" starts being the book I was hoping to get.

"Only Superhuman" isn't, I think a bad book, it's just one that didn't really resonate with me.
  I do like the cover though.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Blatant Plug: Hammerhead Radio

I stumbled across a new Internet Radio Station devoted to Hard Rock/Metal so I thought I'd put up a link. I hope he makes a success of it. Pop over and see what you think:



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