Friday, 31 January 2014

I'm starting to get a bit fed up with the weather.

In place of today's scheduled post, we will be bringing you this important message. 

Dear God, Buddah, Simon Cowell or whoever it is that actually controls Britain's weather these days,

Look...whatever we did to piss you off, we're sorry, OK?

Now enough with all the bastard rain already. 


Big D and the rest of the United Kingdom.

You know what, while I'm here and in a venting frame of mind...

Dear person who built the bus shelters in Portsmouth Commercial road, specifically the one right outside CEX. 

  I really appreciate the way you designed it to offer the illusion of shelter while utterly failing to offer any actual protection from the weather. You also cunningly fitted not enough seats for everybody to sit down, just enough lighting to make it (almost) possible to read the bus timetable and I have to admire the way you carefully sculpted the pavement to collect as much water as possible, giving me and fellow travellers the additional joy of splashing about in a big fuck-off puddle. 

 Give yourself a round of applause and then go eat a bag of goat dicks. 

That's all folks. 
If you'll excuse me,  I'm going to peer out of my kitchen window and contemplate the soggy mess that is my back garden.     

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Heavy Metal Cover Girls: Smooth Skin And Shining Chrome

 A while back I was canvassing for suggestions for a future "Cover Girls" feature and fellow blogger Polybore suggested "Cyborgs/Androids."
"Hmm." I thought "I don't have too many of those in my album art folder. But I like the idea so let's keep an eye out for some stuff that fits."
 And here we are.
 Today's selection is devoted to the fusion of woman and machine. "Metal Cover Girls" indeed.

Let's start with one of my favourites.

Crimson Glory - Transcendence (USA 1988)

 Woman spaceship

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

I admit it. I'm a Philistine.

 In all conscience I cannot describe myself as a man of cultured tastes.

 I read a lot, it's true - but most "classic" literature bores me to death. I love the moment when a book carries me off into another world. I just find that hard to do when the author takes 3 chapters to describe in minute detail how nothing interesting is happening. 

Music is a massive part of my life - but  I don't exactly listen to the most sophisticated stuff around. I want something that makes me want to hammer the air drums, tap out chords on my desktop and in extreme cases, take up a battleaxe and go fight Vikings.

I like films where stuff explodes.

I like paintings that look "pretty"

And Poetry... Oh lord. I have a definite blind spot there. While some people can get lost in the flow of words and the images conjured up behind the listener's eyes, for me, poetry mostly sounds like somebody reading a manual on Chaos Theory. The words are coming in loud and clear but I'm not connecting with them.
 The only exceptions are when a poet gets his point across with broad strokes. Very broad.
 Tell you what, how about I share with you my favourite short poem?

 "When Lady Penelope swoons,
Her bosoms pop out like balloons.
Her butler stands by,
With a gleam in his eye
And pops them back in with warm spoons."
Mr Kenny Everett circa 1984

See what I mean? 

 I'm not proud of this. I'm fairly certain my tastes are not due to any anti-intellectual stance or fondness for the simplistic.  I have this horrible feeling that I may just be an utter pleb. 

 I think I can pinpoint the exact moment I realised that Art and Culture are things that happen to somebody else. 
  Late last year I was roaming the galleries of the British Museum. Centuries of art and craftsmanship painstakingly collected in one grand monument to Man's passion for creation and thirst for new wonders.
   I ambled through the displays, suitably awestruck, but then I came round the corner and beheld this:
British Museum Venus

Lely's Venus. 
 A Roman copy of a Hellenistic original, it dates from the second century AD and once belonged to King Charles II. 
  This bashful young lady outlived the Roman Empire and centuries of barbarism, bloodshed and casual vandalism that wiped entire nations from the map forever. It dates from a time when my ancestors were fur-wearing savages in the woods of North Germany. And it's so wonderfully sculpted that at any moment you expect her to rise up and run for her clothes.

I took a moment to appreciate how fortunate I was to live in such a time  that such treasures might be freely beheld by all.  I marveled at the long-dead artist's skill.  I briefly wondered what adventures Venus might have had on her long journey down the centuries and what she might say if science or magic ever gave her a voice.
 I thought all these things and more. 
 But my immediate reaction....
The very first thing I thought when I entered the room and saw Lely's Venus for the very first time was...

I am Big D.
I must confess to you all that I am an utter Philistine and my the gods have mercy on my culture-less soul. 

That's all folks. 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Book Review: "Louder Than Hell" - Jon Weiderhorn & Katherine Turman

 The other day I won £40 on a scratchcard and immediately made a beeline for the nearest bookshop, where this book caught my eye.
 Really, it would have been impossible not to notice it. "Louder Than Hell" is 718 pages of hardback metal mayhem and by any standards qualifies as a "Big Damn Book."
  I find myself obscurely pleased that a book about the world's loudest, most OTT music form can be used as an impromptu weapon.

  The idea behind this book is very simple: To try and tell the story of Heavy Metal through the words of those involved.
  Each of the 13 chapters covers a different scene or point in time, starting with the first bands to crank up the amps and ending with the American bands of the 21st Century.
 Naturally there's many tales of bands living on ramen and sleeping on floors, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, groupie abuse and just plain old-fashioned violence.
 Some of the tales are well-known (Ozzy and the bat, Alice Cooper and the chicken, the horrific deaths of Randy Rhoads and Cliff Burton) but there's plenty of other stuff that's not so familiar.
 My favourite would be the afternoon Paul Di'anno spent down the pub with Lemmy. He was matching the Motorhead mainman drink for drink and, he thought, doing quite well. But then he realised he couldn't move.  Turns out they'd been in there for 6 hours but while Paul was utterly destroyed, Lemmy was barely affected. As Di'Anno puts it "How the hell does he do this every bloody day?"

Not everything is so funny.
 The most disturbing chapter would have to be the one about Norway's infamous early-90s Black Metal scene, which spiralled into arson, feuds and eventually, murder.
  Even if you know the bare bones of the story, Count Grishnakh's own account of the day he stabbed rival Euronymous to death is a chilling read.
"His cowardice made me angry and I saw no reason to let him live"

 My one big gripe is that "Louder Than Hell" is very US-centric. The chapter on Black Metal aside, European contributions to metal after the mid-nineties are a bit of an afterthought. So the explosion in bands playing Power Metal, Symphonic Metal, Folk Metal, Viking Metal, etc,  receives no mention whatsoever.
 And no doubt there are purists out there irate at the space devoted to Nu Metal and Metalcore.

 Pedantry aside, I enjoyed "Louder Than Hell" enormously, to the point where I resented any moment not spent reading it. It really is that interesting.

  Is this book the definitive history of heavy metal?  Not quite. I'm not even sure such a book could be written. Heavy Metal is too big, too diverse and too bloody confusing to fit inside the pages of one book.
  If you want to know more about Black Metal or US Hardcore or 80s Hair Metal then you'd be better off tracking down a book specifically about those scenes.
 But if you want a quick intro to the many facets of Metal and a few new anecdotes for the next time you're down the pub then I'd call "Louder Than Hell" £20 well spent.

That's all folks. 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Cheapo DVD Review: Gladiator of Pompeii (2013)

Linda Batista
Victor Alfieri
Tomas Arana
Vanessa Gravina
Tony Musante
Luca Ward
Bettina Zimmerman

The DVD cover blurb reads thus: 
"Epic drama of Pompeii at the city's height of glory, up to the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79, this film is one of titanic proportions, recounting on the grandest scale, its untimely destruction which killed 20,000 people in a matter of hours.

Pompeii was a world where men and women ahd slaves and where gladiators fought to the death to provide entertainment to the bloodthirsty crowds. Helpless agaisnt a succession of apocalyptic events (A great earthquake, tidal waves, thunder and lightning), the inferno continued for three days and then all was silent. From the Ashes a Hero will Rise"

  This is not a movie about gladiators.

This is a movie about Pompeii that has some gladiators in it. Important difference.

  It's also, technically, not actually a movie. I was a bit nonplussed when part of the opening credits showed up again about 1/3rd of the way through until a little bit of research revealed that "Gladiator Of Pompeii" started life as a 2007 Italian TV series called "Pompei, ieri, oggi, domani" (Thank you IMDB
 Basically they stitched the three parts together, wrapped the whole thing in a mildly-misleading DVD case and hoped to cash in on "Spartacus - Blood And Sand".
 Notice how the guy on the cover is wearing Russell Crowe's helmet from "Gladiator"? Tell me that's not deliberate.
 While we're on the subject of the cover let's address a couple of the things stated therein.
"From the Ashes a Hero will Arise" - No, no he doesn't. But then "A hero manages to successfully leg it" is a crap selling point.
"A lavish production with EPIC FIGHT sequences." - Wow. They put the EPIC FIGHTS all in capitals so they must be really cool, right? 
Again, no. A Channel 4 documentary about gladiators would probably definitely do a better job. 

   Having got that out of the way. let's move on to the actual film.

 The story opens with a hotshot Vulcanologist being pulled out of the field to come look at Vesuvius. While in Italy he's given a tour of Pompeii by a beautiful Italian vulcanologist/archaelogist/research assistant and she tell a him a story about the last days of the city...
(Fade to AD79.)
 The next two and a half hours are a mix of historical drama and disaster movie, the latter becoming more and more prominent as we get closer to the big finale.   

 A Thracian gladiator falls in love with a slave girl.

An exiled and enslaved princess catches the eye of the local Consul.

The local Christians manage to get right up the noses of the authorities

And the Consul's sister does wonders for the reputation of Roman noblewomen by being a bit of a bitch - when she's not telling her brother "Look, these earth tremors and clouds of smoke coming out of the mountain are worrying me somewhat. Can we get the Hades out of here please?"

 If you've got used to the "Blood, backstabbing and boobs" approach to historical drama ("Rome" and that "Spartacus" thing again.) then the whole thing comes across as stately and curiously old-fashioned. There's a definite air of the old 50s/60s epics about it. 
 If you're a fan of Italian sword & sandal movies then you're really on familiar ground. Muscular men in short kilts, haughty noble men and women being mean to lovely slave girls and some atrocious dubbing. 

 But I have to admit that after a slow start I found myself getting into it and the climax is suitably dynamic. 

(Spoiler alert: The mountain goes bang and not all of the cast survive.)

 For the most part the end of Pompeii is handled well, despite some SFX failures, but is it enough to save the film? Maybe. 

The one thing that does puzzle me is the framing storyline. The vulcanologists, remember?

  There doesn't seem to be any reason whatsoever for them to be in the film. They meet, she tells him a story, they end up in bed (somehow) and then when he buggers off to visit another volcano, she does the old "Race to the airport to catch him" cliche. And the point of all that was...?
 The director could have got an easy crowd-pop in by making them reincarnations of Pompeiian citizens but nope, doesn't happen. 
 The bloody film is three hours long so it's not as if they needed to pad the story out, is it?

How much did I pay for this: £2
Was it worth it? Once I realised that I wasn't watching the film I expected then I did manage to get into it. But I would still say "Approach with caution" unless you're a fan of Peplum movies and want to see what  the modern equivalent looks like. 

Ps. Memo to self:  Track down the lying get who designs the DVD covers for these things and give him a good backhand across the mouth. 

Trailer here if you're still interested. 

That's all folks. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Metal Project: Metal Over Mind

The Metal Project - Metal songs about "Metal" - Metal Gods, Metal Massacres, Metal Hamsters or even just "Heavy Metal"   You get the idea. 

 I've been doing this for almost two years now and I'm not even close to running out of songs. I doubt I ever will. Right about now, I guarantee there's a bunch of hairy kids in a garage somewhere practicing their new song "Metal Attack"  It could be Germany. Could be Botswana. Could be China. They are out there and if the song ever gets onto Youtube I'll find it and post it here.

  Anyway, today's selection is selected purely at random. I hope you find something to like. Enjoy.

Acid Witch - Metal Movie Marijuana Massacre Meltdown (USA 2010)

(Sludgey rumblings with a real groove to it.)  

Seven Witches - Metal Tyrant (USA 2002)

(Crunchy US Power Metal)
Honour to: Ruth Gonzalez

Legado De Judas - Hijos De Metal  (Bolivia 2012)

(Rough and ready Power/Thrash)
Honour to: sergioledez666

Blind Vengeance - Metal Over Mind (Canada 1985)

(I can't quite work out who they remind me of. One of the crunchier Neat Records bands, maybe?)
 Honour to: deadhorse99

And now, a subgenre I don't think I've ever posted before.
UnBlack Metal
(Christian Black Metal, basically.)

Suspiria Profundis - Holy Unblack Metal (Italy 2009)

(Harsh and ponderous. Definitely not "Songs Of Praise" material)
Honour to: Antonio Carlos

Morningstar - Metal Fever (FInland 2002)

(80s-sounding Trad Metal)
Honour to: metallioum3

And finally.

Beautiful Sin - Metalwaves (Nor/Ger 2006)

(A female fronted Power Metal band that I'd never heard of - and you know what? I am impressed.) 
Honour to: Futers666

If you have any questions, criticisms or band suggestions then feel free to pop something in the comments box. 

What the hell, if you do happen to have written  a song called "Metal Attack" then let me know and I'll share it with the world.

That's all folks.  

Sunday, 12 January 2014

A Fistful Of Comics - January 2014

  The other day I braved the wind and the rain to take a jaunt over to Southampton's Forbidden Planet and pick up a comic or two. Or three. Maybe four at the most...

  As tends to happen a lot, once in the presence of reading material my self-control gave up, hung out the "Back in an hour" sign and disappeared until the madness was over.

  So, here's what I bought and some thoughts on each. Let's start with the series I've been following for a while.

Uber #7 & #8 (Avatar Press)

Uber #8
 What's it about?  The war continues to get bloodier as more nations develop their own Superhumans. 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

A zombie movie set in Stoke? This I need to see.

 Today's post is not even close to what I had planned. Let me talk you through the process.

1. Sit down at PC, planning to do some comic scanning.
2. Remember that I have a freebie CD from Fireworks magazine that I haven't listened to yet.
3. Track 3 is by Lesbian Bed Death. I'm quite impressed.
4. Hang on. Doesn't their new CD have a female gunslinger on the cover?  That would look great in the "Girls with Guns" theme I want to do for the next "Heavy Metal Cover Girls"
5. Let's go look at their website and find a pic.
6. Hmm, what's this about their song being in a zombie movie...
7. And it's a zombie movie set in Stoke-On-Trent. Bloody hell!
 Since I'm originally from Staffordshire - Stafford, to be precise -and in my younger days spent a lot of Saturdays ambling about in that part of the world,  I find the idea of a zombie movie set in the Potteries to be absolutely brilliant. I really hope the film-makers pull it off.

 So, here's the poster. 

 And here's the Facebook page:

Right about now some of you are probably wondering "What the hell is an Oatcake?"

"Bloody delicious" is the short answer. It's a sort of oat pancake peculiar to Staffordshire/Derbyshire that's best served lightly toasted with cheese and/or bacon. Most people outside the Midlands have never heard of them. Trust me, they are missing out. Bacon, eggs and hot, buttered oatcake is a breakfast worthy of princes.
More info here:

Getting back to Lesbian Bed Death, they are, not surprisingly, from the Midlands and describe themselves as "Gothic Punk/Hard Rock".

  "What do they sound like? " I hear you ask.  How about I let you hear for yourselves?

This is their most recent song - inspired by the infamous Weeping Angels
Not my usual musical area but, you know, this is pretty good. 

Band website here:

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some comics to scan.

That's all folks. 

Friday, 3 January 2014

Cheapo DVD Review: Monster (2008)

Sarah Lieving
Erin Sullivan

Produced by: The Asylum

 Two young women arrive in Tokyo to make a documentary but when the city is rocked by tremors and explosions, the amateur film-makers find themselves capturing something earthshattering.

Because this isn't an earthquake...

 If you watched "Cloverfield" and thought "What this film really needs is less monster and more nausea-inducing camera work" then I have the film for you. 
 If you're not mental then go watch something else. Pigeons trying to eat cigarette butts, for instance.

 This is a monster film where you never actually get to see the monster. There's a tentacle pops up over the rooftops a few times, then at the climax you get...some more tentacles. At no point do you ever see what they are attached to.  
 If you're feeling charitable, you might put this down to a desire to heighten the tension. (What is this thing? Why is attacking Tokyo? What the hell does it look like?")
 Personally I reckon the animation team all called in sick on the day they were supposed to do the big reveal.

 There's some smaller "Worm-things" that pop up at various points. Allegedly.  You never get to see those either. The screen either disappears in a blizzard of chaotic pixels or just goes black and when it comes back the characters are talking about the horrible thing that just happened.

  The end result is that you just end up following two worried young women wandering aimlessly around Tokyo and that gets boring real quick.
 Sarah Lieving and Erin Sullivan do their best and I thought they conveyed the confusion and increasing terror of their predicament more than capably. However, it's just  not enough to carry the movie.

 My big gripe is the video quality.

  Christ on a bike, if "Cloverfield" made you travelsick then get the bucket ready for this one.
 Between the ShakyCam and the way it turns into  Potato Quality whenever things are in danger of getting exciting this film is a real struggle to sit through.
Assuming you do manage to sit through the whole thing then your reward is an inconclusive ending that feels like everybody lost interest.
  Did I mention that you never got a good look at the monster? A bit of a failing in a frigging monster movie. 

How much did I pay for this: 75p
Was it worth it: By the time I finished watching, I was annoyed and had a headache. So that would be a "No"

 If you want a found-footage film that's worth watching try this instead:

 And here's the "Monster" trailer. 

 That's all folks. 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Cheapo DVD Review: Almighty Thor (2011)

Cody Deal (because he's big and blond)
Patricia Velasquez (in unflattering Yeti Boots)
Kevin Nash (Yes, the NWO guy.) 
Richard Grieco (In a lot of grey makeup.)
Some bald bloke who isn't in it for very long.
At least one young mum who strayed into the shoot by accident.
Too many close ups of a monster-dog's ass. 
I'm just glad the CGI team didn't bother giving the monster-dogs any goolies.
This movie is bad enough already. Giant swinging dog-bollocks would have served no purpose beyond rubbing in how much contempt the producers have for all humanity. 

Produced by our old friends The Asylum. It figures.

  Not to be confused with "Thor" (The Marvel one with Chris Hemsworth) although the makers are clearly hoping a few people will be dumb enough to fall for it. 

The story: The evil Loki launches an attack on Asgard (a blatantly obvious painted backdrop.) with the aid of his terrifying devil-dogs. After easily crushing a handful of extras and an army added in post-production,  his ultimate prize: The Hammer of Invincibility (A styrofoam rock tied to a stick) is almost within his grasp. 
  But wait, who is this limping over the hill? Hurrah! Kevin Nash Odin and his sons have come to save the day. 
Actually no. Thor gets himself knocked out, Odin inadvertently kills his other son - who's name I never did catch - after a treacherous bit of sneaky magic and then gets Loki's sword in his back. Oops.
  With the last of his strength Odin flings the Hammer of Invincibility through the wall between worlds, pissing Loki off no end.
Incidentally, said hammer would be better of being called "The hammer of utter crapness." as all through the film it proves as useful as a kayak down a coal mine.
 So, with the aid of an ex-valkyrie warrior woman, Thor is forced to travel to earth in search of the hammer and I dunno, unlock his inner powers or some cobblers like that.

 There is very little positive that I can say about this film and quite a lot that's probably quite mean

 Let's start with the lead. Chris Hemsworth's Thor is hotheaded and arrogant but at least he has a certain charm.  This version of the Thunder God is just a prat.  A huge chunk of the film runs like this:
Thor - "I want to kill Loki now! Why aren't we killing him yet?"
Valkyrie lass: "Remember how Loki utterly tonked you last time you met? You need more training before you take him on again. "
Thor: "No I don't. Hey! Is that Loki over there? You wait here while I run off and get myself humiliated again."
Valkyrie: "Oh FFS."
And repeat.
 He finally pulls his head out of his arse just in time to make the save but dear gods, waiting for him to stop being a plank is not fun.

 Arriving on Earth might have served as an opportunity for Thor to learn some valuable life lessons except  that due to budgetary concerns, the Earthly sections of the tale are based entirely around a deserted industrial estate. So besides beating up a mugger, Thor's interaction with humans is pretty much nil.
 It also means that two immortal gods of Asgard end up doing battle in a selection of back-alleys and car parks. Less "Ragnarok",  more "Hobo Fight"
 This would not have been such an issue if the fight choreography wasn't so woeful. Me and some mates sometimes had drunken swordfights in the back garden and I reckon we made a better job of it than this.
 Loki's final rampage features a lot of stock footage nicked from other films and some special FX that are not up to usual Asylum standard.  Think about that for a minute.
Yes, that bad.
 I might have been able to live with all the above if "Almighty Thor" had a bit more humour or a bit more in the way of pace. "Nope" on both counts.

On the plus side, erm, Richard Grieco does his best to make Loki menacing and I have admit, the bit where Thor ditches his broadsword in favour of an Uzi made me snigger but otherwise, an almighty waste of my time.
How much did I pay for this? £2.
Was it worth it?  Not even close. I can't even be bothered to pull any screenshots. What does that tell you?

 Trailer here but be warned, it makes the film look a lot better than it really is.

 That's all folks. 
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