Thursday, May 29, 2014

Blastbeat Reviews: Bateman, Wings Denied, Botfly

Some more quick reviews -- this time for some lesser known bands. These bands have all just released their debut albums, so they haven't been on the scene for too long. Shall we?

BATEMAN - SMUT

Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Bateman are a 5 piece hardcore band that dish out a simple and noisy hardcore drenched in sarcasm and misanthropy. Smut is their debut album, marking their first real foray in to the ever growing and ever evolving Australian hardcore scene. The album is chocked full of slammin' riffs and catchy songs, but doesn't really come out above the many other noisy hardcore and grindcore bands coming out from down under.

Their weakest link in my eyes is their vocalist who can belt out some great growls and some really wicked, gargling highs, but decides to sound like an angry pirate through 75% of the album. I thought it would be something I'd get used to after multiple repeat listens but even now, a month after first hearing it, it's as jarring as I originally found it. Smut is worth a listen to for fans of the Australian hardcore scene, but unless Bateman step their game up for their next release, I doubt I'd keep up to date with their goings-on. Visit them on Facebook and BandcampOverall Score: 2.5/5


WINGS DENIED - MIRRORS FOR A PRINCE

Wings Denied proves to be the first progressive metal preview I've done since November of last year. I grew out of prog metal a couple years ago and have kept a fair distance away from most progressive metal bands (save for Meshuggah) that think the rhythmic chugging of the lowest string of their guitars makes music. Wings Denied's debut comes in as a cross between the djenty Periphery and the grandiose Protest the Hero. Contrary to Bateman's Smut, Mirrors for a Prince benefits from a pretty solid vocalist. I find his growling and screaming a bit lacking, but his clean singing is top-notch.

The instrumentation on this album is nothing to scoff at, but really doesn't grab me or prove to me that I should be listening to Mirrors for a Prince instead of Volition or Traced in Air. That being said, overall I enjoyed this album, and I'm interested to see where they'll take their sound. I see Wings Denied on the cusp of becoming a band I could seriously care about, but I'm going to need some convincing. Check 'em on Facebook and BandcampOverall Score: 3/5




BOTFLY - PARASITIC OSCILLATION

Another band in a big hardcore scene, but this time we've got a familiar name. Keegan Goodspeed of bluebird and The Wides has been keeping himself busy with another hardcore band, this time taking a heavier and more aggressive route with his project Botfly. Parasitic Oscillation is the band's debut release (after a single song release in 2013), and comes across as dark, frustrated, and melancholic. There's an almost psychedelic vibe to the tunes as different riffs slither their ways around, going from droning crunchy guitars to full blown high gain riffage. The last song on the album "days late" is one hell of a closer, without a distorted guitar in sight, but Goodspeed screaming bloody murder overtop. It's something that seems odd written out, but it grabs your attention right away and makes sure you're paying attention as the last chords fade out on the album.

Keegan takes up the mic here as wall as guitar duties, and dishes out some '80s style hardcore vocals that border on crust punk sounding. I'd be willing to bet Botfly was inspired by bands like Amebix, Discharge, and Nausea as well as some darker indie rock bands. I'm really digging on Parasitic Oscillation, and I really want to hear Botfly with some better production. The rawness and grittiness of this album definitely adds character, but when there are big crescendos and dynamics in the songs, I think some thicker, clearer, and heavier production will do them wonders. As far as I know, Botfly do not have a Facebook page, but you can check out Parasitic Oscillation and any of their other releases on their Bandcamp page. Overall Score: 3.5/5


That's all for now, folks!

-DG

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Movie Review: Godzilla (2014)

Ever since the first trailer for Godzilla flashed before my eyes, I was totally pumped. The titular monster looked amazing, Bryan Cranston was in it, and it looked like it would be the first Godzilla movie to be taken seriously (and hopefully the one to erase peoples' collective memories of the 1998 flop).


This post is naturally going to contain a ton of spoilers, but for those of you who don't want to know anything about the movie, here's a quick spoiler-free blurb for you.

I liked Godzilla, but I was pretty disappointed with it. Our King of Monsters looked and was animated amazingly, the acting was nothing too bad, and the cinematography was exceptionally well done. Gareth Edwards is a relative newcomer to the directorial world with nothing I recognize in his filmography, but he did a great job making Godzilla seem gargantuan and well, Godlike with his cinematography.

You might be thinking, that all this sounds great and how it could the movie possibly be disappointing for me, but the problem with the movie wasn't the visuals. Godzilla clocks in at over two hours long, and our giant radioactive lizard friend doesn't really make a proper appearance until the very end. While I respect and love the concept of the "slow reveal" in monster movies, it didn't feel like Edwards teased Godzilla throughout the movie. It felt frustrating, because everyone already knew what Godzilla looks like. If Godzilla was something akin to Ridley Scott's Alien, then the slow reveal would work perfectly. Since Big G doesn't get to romping and stomping 'til the last quarter of the movie, we're stuck following around characters we don't really care about for an hour and a half.

Once Godzilla does get his full reveal and gets to do his Godzilla things, the movie gets awesome. They took the Pacific Rim route and made Godzilla move like a 400 foot tall, 2,000 ton beast. Something that is slow but purposeful, and really looks like it has mass to it. The ending of the movie was definitely the best part, overshadowing the previous hour and a half entirely. It's worth the 10 dollars admission just for the end, but be prepared to slug through an entire feature length movie's worth of boring content.

Now that I have that out of the way, here on in there are SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS.

Alright, now I can delve into what actually happens in the movie. I want you to re-watch the trailer at the top. Now, I want you to forget it because the movie I watched was not the movie advertised in that trailer. Here's what I got from the trailer:
  • 0:05 - Oh my God, it's Bryan Cranston. Ever since Breaking Bad shot him up to A-list actor status, I can only hope he stars in more movies in the future. Yo, Mr. White!
  • 0:26 - So this is going to be kind of like a conspiracy theory movie, cool.
  • 0:37 - Obligatory ruined Statue of Liberty.
  • 0:43 - Oh shit! Is Gojira!
  • 1:28 - Are those eggs? Is Godzilla pregnant? Why are they holding on to a missile?
  • 1:30 - Ken Watanabe!
  • 1:32 - Oh fuck, Godzilla can't fly. That means this is going to be a monster mash!
  • 2:00 - Oh my. That's a big monster. Also, since we live in the post- Michael Bay Transformers era, everything big must move via bass drops.
So, looks awesome, right? I have to admit Godzilla's trailers and teasers were all amazing, and the hype for this movie was incredible, so I was doubly crushed when I found out:
  • Bryan Cranston dies in the first 20 minutes. His son, Generic Army Guy With A Family is the main character. Yay.
  • This isn't a conspiracy movie. This is an army/ soldier movie with monsters sometimes in the background.
  • Lady Liberty wasn't featured in the movie. Also, this movie doesn't even take place in or near New York City.
  • That's all you see of Godzilla over and over again for an hour and a half.
  • I will talk about this egg and missile thing in a second because it makes no sense.
  • Ken Watanabe isn't really in the movie too much either, and when he is, all he does is stare past the camera, slack-jawed.
  • This is a monster mash movie, and the battle scenes are freaking amazing. So, good on the movie for that.
  • Again, Gareth Edwards did an amazing job with portraying Godzilla's size, so, no complaints here. Except for the bass drops thing.
Let's explore all these issues, as well as some non-trailer issues, starting at the beginning. The writing for this movie was pretty awful. The acting wasn't bad, but the lines people would say were sometimes cringe worthy. After a scene where GAGWAF has to leave for Tokyo, both his son and wife ask when he'll be back. His responses were along the lines of  "Yeah buddy, I'll be back tomorrow. I promise" and "Of course I'll be back tomorrow, it's not like it's the end of the world" respectively. Holy balls people, this movie is a Godzilla movie. We know that shit is going to go down. Don't fill up screen time with that useless dialogue. Even dialogue later in the movie is choppy and doesn't make sense. GAGWAF needs to get from plot point to plot point by finding soldiers and saying that because he's in the army, he can just kind of join up with them and do their missions or get transportation anywhere. Now, I don't know what the army is like, but I doubt a low ranking officer can just command other people's squads and platoons to do anything. Also, I didn't know they taught you how to airdrop from 10,000 feet into a large city when you become an explosive ordinance disposal officer.

The writing continues it's stinkfest with most of the explaining they try to do for the monsters. Apparently Godzilla and the MUTOs (the bad guy monsters in this movie) are ancient species that used to roam the earth when the Earth was forming and was extremely radioactive. They feed off of radioactivity rather than meat or calories or anything like that, so as the planet formed and became less radioactive on the surface, these creatures moved further and further underground or into the ocean to get closer to the Earth's core. As far as that goes, I have no problem with their origins because if they aren't going the "we played God and created these monsters", they have to shoehorn them in somehow. Ancient radioactivity eating alpha predators, cool. I can dig that.

I have a problem with two parts of the monster-science the movie employs. First, they call Godzilla the "equalizer". When things get "unbalanced" on the Earth, like say when a creature comes along and starts smashing everything to bits, Godzilla awakens to destroy it and restore balance it back out again. This is exactly the reason why Godzilla appears in the movie, to destroy the MUTOs because he believes they are unbalancing the Earth. Hey, you know what else unbalanced the Earth? Fucking humans. The movie even takes a pro-environmental stance, and doesn't acknowledge that humans have done more damage to the planet than the MUTOs did. If anything, the MUTOs were properly equalizing the planet by destroying humans.

The second bit of science I didn't like was how MUTOs had to swallow atomic bombs to feed themselves. Atomic bombs themselves aren't really radioactive. Once they explode they sure as hell are, but when disarmed bombs are just laying around, I doubt they're oozing tons of radiation. If they were, the U.S. military has some serious improvements to make in the health and safety of their soldiers because those poor souls were hauling around bombs for the better part of the movie. They make a point in the movie to say that a modern atom bomb could easily kill either a MUTO or Godzilla from the blast and shockwave alone, so there's no way a MUTO could eat a bomb and then somehow have it explode inside and absorb the fission radiation. Similarly, that bit in the trailer with the eggs wrapped around the nuke, that wouldn't work. The missile was there to bask the eggs in radiation, which it won't, and if it did, that would mean that is exploded. If a nuke could destroy both mama and papa MUTO in its blast, it could sure as hell wipe out every single egg in the nest.

The final frustrating part about Godzilla is that they could have dropped the whole Pacific Rim-esque "we need to nuke the shit out of these monsters" plot because it was totally unnecessary. When you go to see a movie like Godzilla and you know it's going to be a brawl between monsters, the movie has to end with Godzilla beating the monsters. Nobody would watch the movie if the King of Monsters wore down the bad guys and then just backed off and let humans steal the kill with a nuke to the face. That would be awful. So the hour and a half long "GUYS WE HAVE TO GET THE NUKES TO SAN FRANCISCO RIGHT NOW TO DEFEAT THE MONSTERS" stuff in the movie was useless because the audience knew that it wouldn't work and that Godzilla would be the one to win the fight and save the day.

That being said, the fight scenes between Godzilla and the MUTOs were 100% pure awesomeness. You just couldn't look away whenever he was on screen, and both kill scenes Godzilla had were some of the best that I've seen in modern cinema. That final radioactive breath down mama MUTO's throat was enough to warrant seeing this movie. It's one of those scenes that everybody in the theater will cheer for and that you'll talk about and act out to your friends for the next couple days.

So, my feelings towards Godzilla lie just above lukewarm. Overall, I enjoyed it, and I definitely recommend seeing it on the big screen for the final fight, but it feels like watching a feature length soldier movie with a 30 minute Godzilla short at the end. There are holes in the plot and writing, but again, that last quarter of the movie, along with the great cinematography is well worth the price of admission.

That's all for now, folks!

-DG

Friday, May 16, 2014

Blastbeat Reviews: Conan, Aborted, Cynic

I've been super bad about updating this blog, and now that summer is in full swing I'm working two jobs and trying to balance making music with the blog while catching up on Game of Thrones. Hooray! For today's reviews we have three polar opposites: Conan and Aborted!

CONAN - BLOOD EAGLE

For those of you who don't know, Conan is a disgustingly heavy British doom band whose sole purpose is to sound like molten tar pouring out of your speakers. Blood Eagle is the trio's second full-length album, despite their relatively expansive number of other releases.

Blood Eagle comes across as much more well produced than there previous album Horseback Battlehammer, the first Conan release I've heard. Blood Eagle starts off with some standard slow as all hell riffage accompanied by vocals that sound like a barbarian standing atop a mighty mountain, screaming out to the frosty air, praying to Crom for revenge upon his enemies.

Conan actually mixes it up on this album a bit. The first song released, Foehammer is pretty fast, even for a normal band. But don't let that fool you, because Conan still manage to make it sound like the heaviest thing this side of ununseptium. For those of you who like chest-crushing doom, Blood Eagleis a must listen. Overall Score: 4/5


ABORTED - THE NECROTIC MANIFESTO

I reviewed Aborted's last record Global Flatline and while I enjoyed it and wasn't blown away by it, I was expecting much more from the Belgian deathgrinders on this release. The album was hyped as all fuck by all the mainstream metal media outlets, and unfortunately, I find it didn't quite deliver. It's Aborted. They play deathgrind. There's nothing but blast beats, mile-a-minute buzzsaw riffs, and de Caluw√©'s iconic vocals. The problem with The Necrotic Manifesto to me is that it runs for nearly an hour, without shifting gears. It's all gore all the time, and that shit gets tiring after about 25 minutes.

I do have to commend Aborted for their single "Coffin Upon Coffin" which sounds exactly like a B-side of Heartwork (you all know how much I love that album), and their bitchin' covers of Suffocation's "Funeral Inception", and Converge's "Concubine". Overall Score: 2.5/5


CYNIC - KINDLY BENT TO FREE US


Ah, Cynic. I love this band. I've fawned over everything they've released from Focus to Carbon-Based Anatomy, loved every change in sound they've made since the beginning, and after hearing the first single off of KBtFU, "The Lion's Roar", I was super pumped for this album. Kindly Bent to Free Us delivers. Cynic have fully evolved into a progressive rock band, banishing any and all growling or guttural vocals, and ditching (for the most part) Paul Masvidal's iconic vocoder. I for one love Paul's unedited voice, and it's great to hear it alongside plenty of proggy clean guitar riffs and some fuzzed out psychedelic sections. The musicianship is still top notch, as Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert team up with their old friend, bassist Sean Malone.

I definitely dig KBtFU almost as much as I dig Traced in Air. Kindly Bent to Free Us sounds much less spacey and airy than Traced did, but brings in more psychedelic and Eastern influences into the music, as well as incorporates samples now, which I think is cool. I haven't heard many (if any) prog rock albums that use sampling like grindcore or death metal albums do.

If you are one who disliked the changes Cynic made from Focus to Traced in Air, you're going to hate this album. If you've been liking the band's venture into progressive rock, then this album will be the progressive rock album of the year. Overall Score: 4.5/5


Also, as a PSA for the public: Fuck Vik Guitars. Don't use them. The founder and luthier of the company showed his true, ugly colours recently after Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert came out as gay to the public. Fuck homophobia. Fuck you Vik Kuletski.

That's all for now, folks!

-DG