Archive for the ‘review’ Category

HELLOWEEN – 7 Sinners

Posted: January 28, 2011 in music, review
Tags: , , ,

The album has been out for quite some time, but I must say I don’t follow the news as often as I should. As a result, seeing this album on the shelf was a pleasant surprise for me. It has not been long since I started listening to HELLOWEEN, but already I’m loving the precious seconds I spend listening to them.

After the classy silvery artwork, 7 Sinners shows that it was worth waiting 3 years for. As it may be expected, the lyrical theme is about the 7 Deadly Sins. The production values are top-notch, and the songs themselves generally manage to be memorable. It is heavy, with only 1 track providing relief, though that is not especially a bad thing. There are a plethora of exceptionally good riffs, and while I put the place of the solo in relation to the track above the actual guitar prowess shown in the solo, both are pretty good. The solos are not much memorable, but that may change in following listenings to the album.

In a quick run down of the tracks; Where the Sinners Go proves us the album will be nothing short of epic. From the first second we face a song that screams heavy metal. Oh wait, that’s the second song. Are You Metal? is the kind to become a fan favorite, though its tad bit cheesy. If the video and the lyrics are any indication, it might just be a subtle satire. My favorite track is, hands down, Who is Mr. Madman? Although the first track gets pretty close, it cannot match the bombastic sound of the third. The next track, World of Fantasy, lacks flair. It seems too generic. The chorus of Long Live the King is, however, bloody amazing. I can shout it all they long and still not get bored. Impossible not to headbang. The Smile of the Sun is, while not a particularly strong track, a welcome change of pace from the rest of the album. You Stupid Mankind might make more sense when listened to with lyrics, though I didn’t find it important enough to search for lyrics. If A Mountain Could Talk is just mediocre. The Sage the Fool the Sinner ranks little above the previous track, but I rather like the solo. My Sacrifice isn’t an instant hit, but has potential if I can get around listening to it for two-three times. Not Yet Today is… well, whatever. And Far in the Future manages to be an excellent closing track.

Though only a few songs capture my immediate attention, that is a result better than most. Deris’ vocals fit perfectly with the songs, and while I do miss the insanely high pitch screams, it is a reasonable trade-off. The guitars and the bass are above average, with several nice riffs, and actually audible bass lines. The drumming is great on most of the songs, though the rest sound like generic power metal drum lines. Understandable, but it would be nicer to have smoother adjustments to the varying tensions of the songs.

Overall the album doesn’t disappoint the fans and manages to be a genuine piece of art. It is neither best nor their worst work, and settles itself in a comfortable middle ground. I’m hoping, one of those who get better with each listen. Click the video below for a sample.

I’ll try to make this as spoiler-free as I can, but there is so much awesomeness in this book that I want to share that may unfortunately be spoilers for some. Nevertheless, I have to put these emotions on to paper, or else I’ll never be fully satisfied.

The penultimate installment on the Wheel of Time series bestows a huge amount of responsibility on Brandon Sanderson’s shoulders. We don’t know how much of the book had been written before Robert Jordan passed away, but it’s likely Jordan was more interested in getting the beginning and the ending done than trying to pull off the middle part. As it stands, the novel tries to tie in many of the plot threads that have been plagueing the series since book 6 due to the need of getting too many things done, slowing down the series considerably. Sanderson manages to minimize the damage, though not without some shortcomings.

After passing through an intro that introduces yet another bunch of plot lines to cover before the series is over, we are faced with the post-12th-book Rand, who is, when tried to put into words, bloody awesometastic. Yes, that’s the closest I could come to describe the new Rand. That is the guy we have been waiting for the past 20 something years. And he’s barely in the book.

OK, I assume we can cut some slack on Sanderson, since after 12th book there isn’t any need for character growth for Rand until the end. It’s just a showcase of his personality now that he is ready to rock the Dark One out of the world. Every time he appears, he is there to show his awesome and solve the backlog of problems he has unleashed unto the world. I like that in a book, where his actions do lead to some worse consequences. Could’ve been handled better, but with the amount of screentime he’ll probably be getting in the last book, it can be excused. Practical solutions work best when you have only a month to re-unite the world. There’s much more character development to be had on Perrin’s and other characters’ side.

Speaking of character development, there is a lot to be had in Perrin’s side in this book. He should’ve been out of his wimpy “I’m no lord” self long time ago, but hey, at least he accepts it in the end. The whole Two Rivers bit with Elayne was solved rather easily for Wheel of Time standards, but at least gave me satisfaction in the way it was solved. I simply wish there wasn’t this much Perrin in the book. Going straight into his transformation to a more confident guy would’ve been enough. And it would save us from reading all those things again. It was good to see Elayne getting her ass handed to her, while Mat finally (hopefully?) got rid of that gholam, in a rather anticlimactic way. Egwene also gets her ass handed to her by Perrin and Rand, though she does get rid of a Forsaken.

What differs most from the previous installment of the series is the lighter tone of this book. After Rand’s emotional turmoil in the last book, there are many relaxing moments in this book, reminiscing for the last time before the Last Battle comes. Reunion of Mat, Perrin and Thom manages to be a pleasant change of pace. And also, badger.

Overall, the book does what it aims to do: tie off enough plot threads to keep the last book from becoming a 2500-pager. The execution is a bit iffy at times, but I still love Sanderson’s writing style, and he does justice to Robert Jordan’s legacy. Finally, after years of build up, the end is within sight. Despite its shortcomings, it is easily one of the best fantasy titles of 2010. A must read continuation to a must read series.

And again, badger.

Gundam 00 Movie Review

Posted: January 25, 2011 in anime, review
Tags: , , , ,

What? Two updates in two days? Really? Is the world coming to an end? It’s not even 2012 yet!

I had been a Gundam virgin until just two years ago, having never watched any of the older series. Seeing the PVs for Gundam 00, I was hooked. The action was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. And now, 2 years later, I can finally end my 00 experience the way it was intended: with an action packed movie. Only basic spoilers ahead.

It was a dangerous gamble on Sunrise’s side to include aliens as the source of conflict in this movie. For a series most renowned for its human vs. human politics, it gave us a light in how a united humanity would face aliens if worst came to worst. Of course, this whole scheme is under a layer of symbolism of Gainax variety, if aliens being formless and only communicated through mutual understanding is any indication. You can substitute those aliens for anything or anyone alien to you or to your country and all that bullshit, but you can draw these connections yourself after watching it anyway.

Still don't know what the trailblazer is...

I don’t want to criticize Sunrise for including a moral message in their work, but doing it this blatantly is never the best way to give moral messages. Smearing it across your face, if anything, makes you apprehensive about actually agreeing with the results the movie gives us. The series was already about eradicating war from the planet; we get it already.

Even though the execution of said morals is rather sloppy, Sunrise does what it does best to win our hearts back: action. The CGI is outright amazing, and while trying to combine that CGI with 2D artwork does get a little awkward at times, it is easily overshadowed by the artistic prowess shown in the movie. The color palette at 720p and 1080p promises you a visual ecstasy, and the flower part at the end can only be called beautiful. Without giving too much away, Sunrise never fails to display their magnificent artisticity.. artistry.. artisanness? Whatever that is.

Previous sentence makes as much sense as this translation.

The plot falls short of good, if it is what you are looking forward to. Waging war against aliens have been done already, and too much time is spent on useless characters. Louise’s boyfriend gets so much screentime that you’d expect him to be useful at some point, but no, he is intent on fixing some things that nobody cares about. All the intriguing political aspects are left to “hey let’s attack the aliens and hope we win!” and counting on Celestal Being to do that. Reusing already established characters doesn’t need too much skill when all that happens is Setsuna achieving God-mode.

The BGM is virtually non-existant. The music are not memorable in any way, and the attempt at relieving the tension in mid-fight with a cheerful song is a sad at best. The ending song was also out-of-place, not in the mood of concluding at all. At least the characters still retain their voice actors, and all the gunshots and special effects make Sunrise justice.

If anything, the enjoyment you get while you sit back and relax is worth your time. It doesn’t involve you going on an intellectual journey to understand the movie or what it symbolizes. If you just sit back and enjoy the action scenes and the rather crappy ending, you will see that it isn’t half bad after all.

And subs. Go with gSS. Although the fabulous subs at the beginning sequence might scare you off, you can always turn to the “boring subtitles” by choosing it from Haali Media Splitter. I find it hilarious.

Rome: Total War

Posted: November 19, 2010 in game, review
Tags: , ,

Lately, I’ve been preoccupied with a lot of things, many insignificant. It’s usually the case with me, doing anything unnecessary and none necessary until the last possible moment. Study for the history test next Monday? Only at Sunday night. Spend two hours tweaking your phone just to change it the day after? You bet I’m doing that.

Alas, my non-loyal but possibly existing followers, it has not been the constant bickering with my Android phone that kept me from catching up to my word count in NaNoWriMo, or achieving my goal of one post per day (though we all know that’s not happening). It is not the new F1 2010 game I bought for PS3 because it looked cool in the store, nor the ancient Greek play Lysistrata that I enjoy way more than I should, and certainly not the rather annoying headaches I’ve been getting in the last weeks. It is…

…way to build up the suspense, when the title already explicitly shows what it is. Whatever.

Red background is serious business.

Rome: Total War; the game to play for any strategy maniacs. Originally published in 2004, the game still retains a cult group of followers that just can’t get enough of the game. It has been heavily modded and has the largest community in all of the Total War games. But what is it that makes this game the flagship of the strategy game community? The answer is multifold.

The first reason to come to mind is the historical setting. Starting at 3rd century BCE, you experience the rise of the Roman Republic, various reforms that has significantly altered Rome, and the Civil War and the rise of the Roman Empire. You alone have the power to unite Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor under a single hand. You have the power to shape the world as we know it.

Just the exhilaration one gets from that glory is enough to make this game a viable pastime experience, yet it is of no wonder that had gameplay not been this impressive, it would be of little importance to the gaming community. Being able to play through alternative factions of power offers you a less repetitive gaming experience, and unique units help spice the game up. I could go great lengths about the way cities are led, the army fights and the way of conquering across the world, but much of that can be found on Wikipedia already, and the chances are you’re going to read it anyway regardless of what I write here.

Still at the same word count,

Xyllan.

Bearing the full title of The Cold Embrace of Fear – A Dark Romantic Symphony, symphonic power metal band Rhapsody of Fire’s new album is exactly what it sounds like: a 35-minute epic that goes beyond a simple progression of songs. It is essentially one song divided into seven different acts as the music evolves. It is deeply connected to the story of Erian’s book, and as usual, Christopher Lee narrates throughout the whole album.

An album it may be, but The Cold Embrace of Fear is more along the lines of an EP, even though classified as a full-length album. One huge song, with many of the acts consisting of narratives alone,  it is a musical feast that is meant to be taken at one gulp, rather than in parts. To make a comparison, it is Dream Theater’s Six Degrees of Turbulence with just the title track, meaning this album would’ve been better off to contain an extra CD of actual 4-minute tracks.

On a more technical point of view, the album’s sound is not particularly unique (if one is looking for such), but you can hear how much Rhapsody has evolved from their Legendary Tales years. The lack of uniqueness does not symbolize a drop in quality, but rather, how comfortable they are with their style at the moment. It also serves as an extension to their last album, The Frozen Tears of Angels, in the means of a musical progression. Lione’s vocals still retain their deep epic feeling, Turilli’s guitar-work can only be called a splendid use of his neo-classical techniques, Staropoli’s keyboards are indispensable in retaining the symphonic aspect of the band, Guers’s base is more defined than ever, and Holzwarth is still a beast on those drums. And lets not forget the narrator Christopher Lee, without whom help this album would surely not have existed.

In a nutshell, this album is a worthwhile listen for any power metal fan, and even to those who prefer the classical music to the metal sound of the band. As a whole, it is a song majestic in every comparison.

Rating: 4.25/5