Friday, December 30, 2005

Michael E. Thomas - Live Review

It was 10pm when we staggered in through the doors of Bar 7 in Portstewart, already drunkened after a few hours of Seagal and Van Damme flicks (oh the cheese). Upon getting the requisite drinks we glanced around the venue for some seatery, and what luck! Two seats right in front of the man we have come here to worship, Michael E. Thomas.

For those uninitiated a few words are needed. Michael E. is an American musician who lives and performs in Northern Ireland. His weapon of choice is the guitar, which he is particularly proficient at playing. His live shows are usually segregated into two types, a full band line-up normally playing original songs, and a solo spot where he will play mostly covers. Tonight is one of the latter. He also has various albums to his name, ranging from blues, acoustic material, and even children’s songs.

So here we are, bowing at the altar of Michael E. A special occasion if for no other reason than it’s the first time seeing him in many many months for both I and my accomplice. Equipped with a guitar hitherto retired since last May, but now with brand new (and ultra rare) pickups, as ascertained by a pre-set conversation, he is ready to pulverise all our aurals with wonderfully catchy and technical playing. Oh, did I mention he sings too.

He opens with some songs, I can’t remember which, but all the old favourites are there, including some new ones, like that Killers song. Undoubtedly the main spectacle of his acoustic shows is the mighty Acousticous Eruptous (that reminds me, I’ll have to ask him if he’s seen Scorpius Gigantus next time I see him). This song consists of a long instrumental guitar jam, which segues into a cover of The Stones’ Paint It Black that puts the original to shame, and then segues into a final epilogue of instrumentality. I can do no justice to it whatsoever in words, it’s simply brilliant to watch, the energy and guitar skill involved is breathtaking. The song is enough to even get the apathetic patrons at the bar to turn around and gawk in awe as Michael E’s strumming hand becomes an invisible blur.

I sat with a permanent smile on my face throughout the entire set (alongside the necessary bar trips and toilet trips). He pumped out covers of Stairway To Heaven and others, all rousing renditions, packed full of energy and passion. Perhaps the highlight (besides the aforementioned Acousticous) would be when he played Welcome To The Machine by Pink Floyd after I chanted my request for it between songs. Oh yes, it’s been too long.

Maybe it’s just because I hadn’t seen him in so long, but I don’t think he’s ever been better. Let’s be honest, he was on fire here, all that pent up frustration of a week spent in the recording studio let out in a blaze of musicological prodigiousness. If you ever get a chance, go and see this guy play; solo, band, whatever, you’ll fucking love it.

Visit Michael E’s website here.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Thoughts whilst watching Steven Seagal film Submerged

Now, if during this continuous commentary I happen to descend into maniacal convulsions of laughter it is because I have just put on the DVD of the latest Steven Seagal flick, an action film by the name of Submerged. That aforementioned mad convulsing could be very well underway right now, for the intro sequence features a hilarious bit where Seagal appears behind his textual credit and gives a sneering glance towards his fine audience of 10 year old boys and 40 year old men.

Fuck, what’s all this yakking about? And I don’t mean a scene where a yak comes into the board-meeting to talk to Seagal, and Seagal has to battle it to the death in an electrified pit surrounded by coked-up pandas screaming for blood, and pink milk. Punk milk? A rancid yellowish substance born from the teats of a mohawk. What the hell? Who do I think am I, Douglas Coupland? Christ.

But anyway, five minutes in and we have no Seagal, what the hell did I pay nothing for here!?! Whole lotta militarian bollocks, men in helicopters, men in fields draped in camo. Where’s our favourite ponytail wearing, pseudo-Indian, hard cunt, Seagal, himself?

Then suddenly, smacked in the face by an epiphany, a revelation ripped from the loins of a Greek god, not Zeus, that other one. The burgeoning clarity prophesised in the Old Testament is now coming to the front of my...hang the bejesus on! Seagal! In chains!

It’s fucking Chris Cody himself! It’s Seagal, and he’s a prison type, and, more to the point, obviously very consciously hung-up on his present ‘podgy bastard’ status, thus we get Seagal standing about in the shadows. So much so that I can barely make out his face. All I know is that he’s getting his crew, the old boys are back, including the infamous Henry.

Now let me explain to all those who are not acquainted with this running joke. The DVD box of Submerged features the hilarious blurb of: “With Vinnie Jones as Henry.” That’s right, he’s Henry! Now the major thing I wanted to know about this film as soon as I saw it, what jumped straight outta my breathe hole was, “Mothercunt of a Jandek! I wonder who’s gonna be playing Henry?” Then of course I saw the blurb and my life once again suddenly had meaning.

So anyway, before I got distracted by the face de la flaccid face-fat of a Seagal. His face may have went south of, well, most of his face for that matter, but on the plus side, because we always must look for a positive in this damned savage life, his jowls are coming together nicely. I foresee that the next flick, which is apparently already done, and apparently the guy from Grahams, I dunno, Graham, has seen it, and it is shit. [Edit: I’ve since visited the IMDB, and this new flickery must be either Today You Die, or Black Dawn] But how were the jowls I ask, or would have had the occasion been subject to my presence, I probably would have uttered a finely thought-out diatribe such as, “Shut up, cunt face, your DVD’s are too pricey, and that Seagal, those jowls, how the fuck are you standing?” With succinct speech like this my interlocutor would be helpless to dodge any such jowl queries, and I’d grill him, oh I would, for the jowls, the essence of life, they need to be pronounced with immaculate clarity.

No more digressing however, for to do that is to ignore my trains of thought, I have trains these days, TGV, bought in straight from the bowels of Parisian pigeon holes. I was saying about a realised prophecy, yes, it was the Old Testament, Ruth perhaps, not Rush as I just typo-ed there, although they should have been given their own book of the Bible, ‘And Neil Peart said let there be drum solos from now til the rapture.’ But it may have been in Ruth, Boaz and so on, hell its true, that’s the only thing I remember from primary school R.E, a good thing I’m sure. The revelation came to me early on in this film, as we are now a good half hour into it (some explosions are occurring), and this is what it was, this film, this Submerged, why holy Fahey why! This is shit, I cannot deny.

But was this not realised before? Well, yes, it was, but Seagal motherfucker! Fuck Seagal unfortunately. I think the simple truth is that these films are only good, assuming you are not part of the detailed demographic groups I highlighted above, are only good when watched with people with equally decent filmic tastes, preferably with a few Magners, and perhaps some Van Damme to follow.

And just to think that this time last night I was just finishing up a good, overdue rewatching of Sin City. Now that was a film, brilliant writing, excellent stories, super acting, visually awesome, and this...well Seagal has some fuzzy sideburns, which is something.

They seem to be submerged right now, lots of submarine halls, and galley’s, and pipes, and beep....beep....beep. Quite right too, were I to have bought this (I haven’t) and there was no fucking submerging in sight, I would have written to our Steven with the following message:

“Oi Seagal cunt, got that there Submerged on DVD, and while I enjoy the never-ending development and maturing of your jowls, I must chasten you a little, for the title made me think ‘Oh, bet Seagal’s gonna get all submerged and stuff’, but looky here, and this is my beef, there was no submerging, and not only that, but you didn’t even get wet!”

I’d of course include some portraits of Leo Tolstoy just to make it clear that we’re all friends here. Wait a minute, Under Siege, that WASN’T a Tolstoy adaptation! Buggering Bergerac!

Seagal’s got some sweat on his face at 42:31.

Wouldn’t it be great to get Seagal and Van Damme together into one almighty movie, the ultimate shit movie. It could be Seagal and Van Damme are cops, partners you could say, in the narc division (cos we all liked that movie), and they have to bring down the head honcho of a crime empire, played by Dolph Lundgren. And Stallone is their mentor. And Vin Diesel is the rookie cop assigned to help them. And Wesley Snipes is in it too. With Vinnie Jones as Henry.

Ah, sigh, that will be made, it must be. And, hell, might as well round this off, Uwe Boll to direct! And it’ll be called The Last Action Movie. Although we’d be lucky were its title to be true.

This film is really, really bad. I normally just keep sandpaper for when lovely ladies walk past, who I just can’t bear to look at, but I’d be tempted to give the irises a good rub-down right now. Save me from this guff.

This is the bit where I breakdown finally, I’m lying in a groaning heap of steaming flesh, squirming in the corner, unable to move, but a tune falls into my samba nostrils of hope and fertility:

The Seagal Samba
Hark oh thee Seagal
For thee of the Nico
Oh blubber and gluts
Jowls ain’t bad
(Repeat til dead)

“Listen here Henry, I wanna talk to you about Faith No More. The pertinent question is, The Real Thing or Angel Dust? I’ll ignore those others, because true be told I don’t have them.”

Henry doesn’t reply, he’s too busy punching some sniper in the brains. I continue nevertheless.

“I prefer Angel Dust, more variety like, musically, ya know. ‘Everything’s Ruined’ and ‘A Small Victory’ are both fantastical stand-out tracks.”

Henry’s not listening, he’s not even in this scene. How vulgar.

Seagal’s gonna be taking the place of some government official at an upper-class soiree? Like those aristocrats and establishment roaches are not going to notice that, hey, that’s not Billy blue blood, but it’s actually a podgy gut Seagal, acting badly, and grimacing as if in permanent pain.

Twenty minutes left, can I last it? This is endurance. Hahahah! He did it! They’re addressing him as Mr Ambassador! That crazy motherfucker pulled it off. I thought the only thing he’d truly be able to pull of was a wig (who knows?). Oh, it’s the opera. The fat lady, the obese octogenarian, and Seagal, what a medley!

Once again Seagal is sitting in the shadows, must be a standard contractual clause for him nowadays.

To try and get all straight for a moment (pretend this is Sight And Sound), this outdoor digital photography is horrendous, it’s like sub-Three Kings, and works atrociously against the regular interior work. Maybe the digitalia fucks with Seagal’s award winning acting (I’m assuming here, on both fronts). I can see what they’re trying to do here, local outdoor – bright, bright!, bad guy – dark and blue, etc. It’s all gone very Traffic, but whereas that film had story and dialogue, this has, well, um, no story and no dialogue. Sorry I’m running out of steam, bran crackers, and jaffa cakes.

There’s a moral here, never watch a Seagal alone. In fact, I must start the rumour now, if you watch a Seagal alone, following the completion of said viewing, you will receive a phone call with only the sound of a man’s out-of-breath grunting on the other end, and then after one week, Steven Seagal will crawl out of your TV set, and eat your eyes. You heard it here first kids.

We’re at the end of this epic now, thank fuck. Lobby gun fight, lots of blue (must be the bad guy’s hideout), explosions, Seagal’s just thrown down his gun in anticipation of some hand to hand combat with a large coloured fellow. Haha! Shadows, obvious post-production speeding up. But no! Hold the fuck up. Next scene, Seagal just kicked a guy through a window! Brilliant! Marvellous! Although I do suspect that to have been a stunt man’s leg, but oh well.

Aftermath, poolside, yadda yadda.

That’s 92 minutes of my life gone. I may need to watch Annie Hall now, or something else completely antithetical to that guff, just to regain my sanity and coherence.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Fahey Christmas Carol

It is late afternoon on Christmas Eve and most of the snow covered shops of the old town are preparing to close their doors, all except for the old Ebenezer Fayhey place that is.

Inside this small ramshackle building Billy-Bob Cratchit sits slaving away over a slew of legal papers at his plywood desk. Looking at the limbs of time annihilating his very life from the countenance of his pocket watch, he wipes a blurred eye and sweaty neck and resumes his acrid work.

Suddenly the shop door flies open so forcefully as to almost rupture the wooden frame. From the spatial void, in walks a man in a Gucci suit and leather top hat completed with Zebra feather. Looking like a yuppie pimp, the man is none other than Ebenezer Fayhey. Upon entrance, he focuses his sneering repellence on Cratchit, who promptly shivers at the dark blue of Fayhey’s ocular scan.

“Are those papers finished yet?” bellows Fayhey. Cratchit’s mousey nod of negativity causes Fayhey great pains, and his jowls tremble with a great rumble producing an immense efflux of steam, which instantly results in the fire evanescing into nothingness. Fayhey sits down at his throne-like desk and commences scrutinising a file of notes.

Eventually Fayhey arises from his stupor and tells Cratchit to go home for the night for he is tired and wants to get home in time for Frasier. Before he reaches the door Cratchit about-turns and says, “Oh, Mr Fayhey, I almost forgot, but my family and I have bought you a gift.” He hands Fayhey a small box wrapped in old newspaper. “It’s not much, but we wanted to show our appreciation at this time of giving and goodwill to all men.” Fayhey contemptuously takes the box and rips off the exterior to reveal a DVD of Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace. “What the fuck is this shit?” he yells, “Why what sorta fucking Jobe is that...huh, cunt?” Fayhey scornfully holds up the DVD, “Ya see this? This is what I think of your fucking Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace.” He then proceeds to remove the disc and chomp it with his teeth, and then throws the shattered remnants into the furnace. A downtrodden Cratchit wallows out the door, leaving a raging Fayhey whose eyes have now become a dark red such is the fury osmosing his entire character.

Cratchit arrives home and is met at the wall-hole (they can’t afford to have a door) by his son, Tiny Timothy Dalton. Tiny Dalton inquires as to how well received the family’s gift was, but Cratchit simply wipes a rain-cloud of tear off his eye-lid and walks on into the house. Tiny Dalton looks morosely at his webbed feet and sits down on the doorstep.

Fayhey drives up to his mansion in his Rolls Royce classic, listening to Killing Joke, but still pulsating with vexation at the insolence and incompetence of his subservient clerk.

Fayhey washes up and then takes residence on his sofa surrounded by 200mg packets of Doritos and containers of Pringles, as he eagerly awaits the start of the Frasier marathon on Paramount. He notices he has two minutes before the comedy commences, and so takes himself off to the lavatory for he must piss. He stands there battling the piss shiver but still enjoying the relief, when suddenly the ghost of his late business partner Ken Foree emerges from the cistern. “Fuck sake, can I not piss in peace!?!” yells astounded Fayhey. Foree apologies and lags himself out to the hall where he waits sulkily. Finally Fayhey finishes up, leaves the bathroom, and in the hall asks, “Well, what do you want?”

“I’ve come to warn you that Sketch Artist 2: Hands That See is on the other channel, and you will miss it if you to continue with this mad Frasier facade,” replies Foree. He goes on, “Do not make the same mistake I did, I passed up a watching of Scorpius Gigantus to watch Friends, and now I’m cursed to watch the same repeats of Friends over and over again, if I have to watch The One in Vegas again I’ll go fucking crazy!”

Fayhey looks at his swollen hands, and then at Foree’s cloudy phantasma, and he says, “Fuck you Foree, you’ve caused me no end of pain with your goddamn surname pronunciation, be gone with yee!” At this point Fayhey starts to feel around his fireplace for his bellows, but before he knows it Foree has vanished whilst in mid-speech, something about ghosts he was saying. He shakes his head and goes back to his exalted sitting arena.

Following six hours of Frasier, Fayhey hobbles up to bed mumbling something along the lines of, “Oh that Niles...” while chuckling a little to himself. He gets into his four poster bed and instantly his consciousness is ripped from him by our old friend the sandman.

Fayhey snoozes and snoozes until he is awakened by a vociferous whooping noise. He looks up from his slumber and sees a specter in the shape of Nietzsche. Fayhey asks, “Why are you in the shape of Nietzsche?” The spirit replies, “That’s cos I am Nietzsche, you opulent nancy boy!”

“Oh,” muses Fayhey, “well what can I do you for.” “I am the ghost of Christmas past, and I’m here for some revelatory shit.” “What’d I do?” says Fayhey. “Well for one don’t ya know that Psycho 3 was on three Christmases ago? Of course you don’t, what were you watching? Was it Roseanne? I think it was.” Suddenly Nietzsche grabs Fayhey’s arm and they go flying out the window, only to reappear in Fayhey’s lounge of three years ago, and there is Fayhey sitting watching Roseanne. Present day Fayhey proclaims, “Aww but c’mon, it was the Christmas special, look at DJ, he’s so young!” Nietzsche shakes his head, and without warning Fayhey is back in the present sitting on the end of his bed.

Fayhey starts to retract his blankets, but before he can finish he is confronted by another ghost, this time it’s the apparition of Ratt guitarist Warren DiMartini. DiMartini points harshly at Fayhey causing him to fall off the side of the bed where he was previously sitting precariously. “Do you know what is on right now?” questions DiMartini. “Aye, Sketch Artist 2 ain’t it?” “NO, that was earlier, fucker. Johnny 2.0 is on right now, and what are you doing? Not watching it that’s for fucking sure!” And with a scaly hand digit DiMartini launches a lightning bolt directly into the TV screen causing it to come on, and Fayhey moves towards it for a closer look, but to his surprise it’s not the aforementioned movie but a shot of Fayhey standing in his room, bent over, peering into a TV screen. “What is the meaning of this?” shouts Fayhey. DiMartini squints and says, “It’s you not watching that goddamn movie, your present, motherfucker.” And as soon as that last syllable was expelled from the wraith’s gullet he was gone.

Fayhey stands upright and still, and gives the non-existent ghost a thorough tutting. Before he is aware, a third and final spirit is sitting on his shoulder. Fayhey jumps when he realises the situation and runs under his bed in hammer-blows of fright. “Who are you?” Fayhey demands to know. “Why I am Sonic Youth guitar feedback, the spirit of Christmas future.” “Oh,” replies a perplexed Fayhey. “Now take my hand and come with me,” says the spirit. “But you have no hands.” “Then take my discordance.” “Oh ok.” And the duo disperses into the ether.

It is a dark world where highways intersect with crash cymbals, and large portraits of varicose-veined eyes line the sky. Fayhey and his guide reintegrate beside a flaming Porcupine having sex with Bodger, this is indeed a mad world. As Fayhey stands looking at the chaos surrounding him, alphabet spaghetti starts to rain down from the sky. “What is the meaning of all this?” he asks the feedback. “Well,” it replies, “this is what will happen if you continue with this propensity to miss classic films at Christmas.”

“What can I do?” Fayhey says with burgeoning blue in the eyes. “Well, Darkman 3: Die Darkman Die is on tomorrow on Fox.” “But I don’t get Fox.” “But you know who does, that verifiable carpet of yours, Billy-Bob Cratchit.” Fayhey looks on as a sixty-foot Denis Hopper eats a bus. “Very well then, I will change.” Suddenly he is back in his bed.

Fayhey wakes up the next morning a Fahey, eyes more blue than ever before, and the wildest blonde hair this side of Jupiter. Fahey gathers as much food as he can carry from his kitchen, and proceeds to run down into town, circumventing his motorised transport. He arrives down at the Cratchit residence and knocks at the wall. When Billy-Bob comes into sight, Fahey yells a boisterous, but unthreatening, “Merry Christmas!” Cratchit, surprised, welcomes him in. Fahey then asks, “Are you and your fine family going to be watching Darkman 3: Die Darkman Die today?” “Fucking apt!” replied Cratchit.

And so it was, Fahey spent Christmas day playing games with Tiny Timmy Dalton, eating the wondrous food of Mrs Cratchit, and finally, enjoying the seasonal showing of that classic piece of cinema whilst basking in the loving glow of his new extended family.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Dark Angel - Darkness Descends

It was whilst listening to some new, sub-standard attempt at recreating the traditional thrash ethos that I began to feel a juddering in my iron-clad heavy-metal-infused jowls. They started to beckon back and forward forthwith, with no slacken of intent coming. What could I do as I listened to this below-par wannabe schlock? Fuck, my head is stable in solitary motion with no hint of manic convulsions, this is no good. I glanced about the room in vain hope for some deistical wonder to catch glimmer in mine pupils. And there it was shining in the ambrosia of sneering attitude, peering from the darkness right through me. I snatched it immediately with quivering hands stained with blood and semen. Upon reaching the CD player, I wrenched that banal monstrosity in residence and cast it out into the pits of destitute, only to replace it with the holy mecca of ferocity that had unveiled itself to my inner soul. And thus I hit thee play button and was bludgeoned with ecstasy of sonorous eruption, for that album was Darkness Descends by Dark Angel.

1986 will probably be remembered as the high-watermark year of thrash metal, a pinnacle of creativity, invention, and energetic assembly (thanks Watchtower). There were the seminal releases of Metallica’s Master Of Puppets and Slayer’s Reign In Blood, Anthrax’s third album Among The Living, Megadeth’s Peace Sells...But Who’s Buying, teutonic ragers Kreator’s Pleasure To Kill, Watchtower’s Energetic Disassembly, Bathory’s Under The Sign Of The Black Mark, Nuclear Assault’s Game Over, and finally Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends. It shames me to admit that I was only a one year old during the majority of this wonderful year, mightily affluent of classic releases as it was.

If you thought Slayer were the height of brutality and speed in this subgenre, well you need to carry out some deep psychological pondering, perhaps a trip to a local shrink, a purchase of some Freud writings, exegetical examinations of Lacan and Reich, and THEN a listen to these proponents of intense metal. This album, the band’s second, unequivocally takes your outer extremities and proceeds to rampage them with relentless precision.

First song, the title track, opens with the dissonant chimes of armageddon itself, the fall of the heavens and voiding of all existence caused by the dominating rapture of the drumming onslaught and trilling guitar mechanics. I’m sure in certain editions of the Bible there are illustrations featuring man-beast drumming legend Gene Hoglan sitting in the sky behind a gargantuan drum-kit, no, actually the entire sky is his drum-kit, or the sky is the high-hats, mountains are the snares and toms, and the ground is the bass drums.

I remember reading a review back in the day that was generally complimentary of the album, but the only flaw as they perceived it was the production, and that causes the guitars to deteriorate into nothing beyond a blur. I wouldn’t disagree, the production is pretty rough, but I see as only a good thing, it’s ragged as nails and is out to hurt. You think this album would have the same effect were it all Pro-Tooled up? Fuck no. The raw production is integral and paramount here.

The guitar riffs blister along at alarmingly high speeds with the aggression factor souped straight up to ninety. The aforementioned drums power the aural assailment from its core with perpetual rigidity and constant menace. Hoglan would go on to play with a lot of other bands after this (Testament, Death, Strapping Young Lad etc), but the punishing dynamism here is as good as anything he has ever done. Don Doty’s manic, visceral screams just add another layer to the vigorous frenzy this album possesses.

Each song is a classic, a standout, worthy of inclusion on any hypothetical Best Thrash Album Of All Time’s track-listing (I’d guess we’d get Steven Seagal’s Favourite Jazz-Fusion Hits of 1976 even before that were to happen). It’s a shame that this album is often overlooked, aww yeh some people hype it, but too few people look beyond ‘the big four’. Whether it was the highlight of 1986 is to be discussed and warred over, I won’t make any proclamation as to its possible rightful place on that mountain-top (probably because I find it hard to see anything due to Master Of Puppets’ ethereal illumination blinding my corneas with divine lush). But anyway, brilliant album this here is, recommended for anyone who likes Slayer, or German thrashers like Sodom and Kreator.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Demiricous - One

Demiricous are a band whose nascency was conjured deep within the damp, dark streets of Indianapolis back in 2001. Following an initial self-released EP and some demos, they were signed onto the legendary Metal Blade Records label (ya know, where little known bands such as Metallica and Slayer began their careers). One is their debut full-length album, recorded in June 2005, and is due out on 24th January 2006.

The press release for the album describes the band as a “mixture of pure American metal and thrash”. I think the band’s website puts it more aptly when it says “death/thrash metal band”. It certainly is a mix, the musical framework is undeniably thrash with some occasional death metal-esque riffing, but the vocals are skewed more towards a death metal variety. In fact the first band that leapt to my head upon my first listen was death-thrashers The Haunted; those tremolo picked riffs in ‘Repentagram’ are very reminiscent of the Swedish assemblage.

The band are attempting to produce a no-frills, straight ahead piece of heavy and raging metal. As far as that concerns, it does what the tin proclaims, there ain’t no frills to be found here, it’s heavy and raw. Chuggathon riffery writhe spasmodically against a solid and energetic rhythm section. Scott ‘Fuckin’ Wilson deserves some kudos for his picking-hand stamina on the rhythm guitar duties, for this is indeed some fast shit, the sort of blurred-hand work to admire the jowls out of.

Now, I hate to have to get all negative but it’s only necessary. Let me once again recall the sacred words of the press release (for it is a bible of sorts, if looked at from the correct angle): “One without doubt delivers all the rage, hooks, and solos metal heads have been waiting for.” It is respectable that the band is trying to hark back to what they dig from back in the day, the day of the heyday of thrash to be precise, but I’m sorry lads there’s jack shit all hookery on this here. The simple fact is that it may be raged up in a cauldron of The Hulk and Mr Furious from Mystery Men, but so much of it is dull and generic. True, this music doesn’t require catchiness and hooks and melodies to be great, just look at Slayer’s seminal Reign In Blood, fuck all melody there but yet it is revered for it’s brilliance by many, including me. But Reign In Blood has the kind of invention and inspired musical meandering that is sorely missing from this release. So many of the songs plod along with one fast low-E bashed riff followed by another series of power chords chugged up in a furor of palm-mute. It’s boring, and only makes me want to wrench Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends from the CD collection to remind myself how rip-your-face-off thrash metal can really be done.

A special mention to the lyrics, which are particularly bad. Most of the songs concern the standard negative things, killing, and fighting, and hurting, and yadda yadda. It nevertheless does provide some wonderful moments of comedic inadvertency, such as “Badge the worm” from ‘Matador’. Badge the worm!!! Haha, don’t know what the fuck that means but I’m sure it’s a reference to Hegel, or St Augustine.

It does have some decent moments (two minutes into ‘Ironsides’ presents a rare moment of riff excellence, unfortunatly no mention of Michael or Robert), and I’d hypothesize that were I at a live show of Demiricous I’d have a good time, but being at a live show and sitting solitary in your room listening to a CD are completely different environments. You could probably take the best bits from the twelve tracks on One and perhaps end up with three or four decent songs, but everything is spread way too thin, unoriginal and monotonous are the unfortunate labels to be lashed upon the album.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Coming soon

Possessed by the spirit of Uncle Leo, I proclaim, “Hello!”

Fuck it’s been over a week since the last update, mainly due to me being snowed under with essays, and tests, and audio art, and early mornings, and E.P Thompson, and a whole load of shit. But now that’s over. So expect a series of wild untamed updates coming straight at your jowls from Generic Mugwump in the next short while.

But what exactly are we in store for? Well I currently have homework from Blogcritics in the form of writing a review of metal band Demiricous’ debut album, that’ll be inked and blotted very soon. There will be a Xmas treat for all the kiddies out there in the form of A Fahey Christmas Carol. And some other stuff, probably.

While I’m here I may as well update on the current “cultural terrors” (The Duke, 2005). Oops sorry, academia flashback.

I’ve been watching anime TV series Paranoia Agent recently, although I’m only four episodes into it, but I will say this, it rocks. That there up and to the right is a still of said show, I think it’s pretty obvious from that that it rules more than five flaming cataracts imbedded within the skull globe of Tony Scott. That pink creature is the coolest and cutest thing that ever was born from the atom.

Some other recent viewings include the new Jarmusch Broken Flowers, the excellent rockumentary Dig!, and the documentary Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst.

Currently I’m reading Marx’s Capital, although I’m only on chapter 2, I blame those time-consuming educational preoccupations for that insolence.

I’ve been listening to Mesmerize by System of a Down, as well as the new album Hypnotize. My lungs have also been quivering to the aural intonations of Pavement, My Bloody Valentine, Opeth, and The Fall. Oh, and ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, because it’s easily the greatest Christmas song ever recorded.

So anyway, keep those sight sockets peeled in this general direction in the near future.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Scorpius Gigantus - Movie Review

“Hi, I’m Jeff Fahey.” The eternal words, the divine stench of cultural resonance drips from their very being. Has there ever been a more succinct and celestial utterance in the history of history? If so, I know one thing, I’ve never heard it.

Much has been made of Jeff Fahey in the past, and, without hyperbolism, he is certainly worthy of all the praise his millions of fans all over the globe lather onto his head. His latest cinematic magnum opus is a film by the name of Scorpius Gigantus. I kid thee not, it does indeed possess such a magnificent title as Scorpius Gigantus, go on just say it to yourself, Scor-pius Gigan-tus, what a guy! It is my assertion that what Ian Dury and co meant back in the day wasn’t an awareness raising of mental illness, but that Spasticus (Autisticus) was actually intended to be Scorpius Gigantus. I don’t know what happened; one of the Blockheads must have changed it when he wasn’t looking.

The film opens with a wonderful Seven-esque montage, some fabulous graphical geometry in use here, especially around the h in Fahey. Following an explosive thieving of some military knickknacks by the bad guys, things get all Metal Gear Solid with ‘Major Reynolds’ Fahey leading his crack team of soldiers into what seems to be compound ripped from the annals of Soviet Russia circa 1980, all set to the backdrop of a few Euro dance beats. Turns out that it was only an exercise; that Major Fahey likes to keep his warriors in good shape, harsh but fair, proper order sir. Just watch Fahey keep them in line with such remarks as: “This ain’t grunt’s night at the titty bar! You’re Alpha Team!” Fucking right they are Jeff.

The plot concerns a cargo shipment that is stolen by some miscreants, and Major Fahey’s unit is assigned to track it down. We learn of the mission requirements from an exchange between Major Fahey and his superior, a general who looks an awful lot like Sam Elliot, only whose voice has been recorded using that website that speaks the words you input. Apparently Team Fahey is the best, and I don’t doubt it. Oh, and there’s some bad biological shit in the stolen transports, and only scientist Jane Preston has the info. So she gets sent out into the midst of it all.

And what a feisty and rather attractive scientist she is, seems to know her ecology quite well, despite the slow vocalising. Perhaps she’s so specialist as to completely negate all other intellectual areas, including linguistics, so I’d probably want to wait a while before approaching a conversation about Kantian Synthesis (it’s more of a second date discussion anyway). But saying that, at the same time, she’s no Fahey, she doesn’t even have a beret for fucks sake.

However what no one expects on the ground, where the stolen goods have been stored away, and a place that Major Fahey finds almost instantly such is his brilliance, is that some mad N64 beasts are running around making cadavers out of the living. There are a few Scorpius Gigantuses, or Scorpius Giganti, making a nuisance of themselves, as one of Fahey’s minions so eloquently puts it: “All I’m saying is something ain’t natural”, and then he follows up a few seconds later with: “Like I said, something ain’t natural.” Pulp Fiction eat your heart out, now that’s fucking dialogue!

But Fahey’s character ain’t just a one-sided hard-ass, at one point he is forced to get all moralistic when it becomes clear that the experimentations on scorpions were taking place outside of the USA in Eastern Europe due to restrictions on genetic dabblings. I agree Jeff, shame on them.

Major Fahey trained his troops so well that they know even more about science than the appointed expert. During a meeting one of the guys castigates her for failing to recognise the natural order in evolution, and she is left with no decent reply. I bet the good Major taught classes in Darwinism to the guys in between ‘kill by gun’ practice and ‘kill by knife’ practice.

During a slight respite in mutilation, the immature cadets under the rule of Major Fahey find time to mess around with arm wrestling and rock music, don’t they know there’s a war going on!?! Fahey surely does, for when he enters the cabal of laughter and joviality he doesn’t mince his words, he erupts with the cryptic but poignant: “stand down that party down!” I didn’t quite get it at first either, but on further dissection it seems to be an overt reference to existentialism, specifically Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. This isn’t a new area for Fahey, for we all remember Parker Kane’s theoretical discourse on the exemplification of essence in a modern paradigm.

Major Fahey’s up against it here, not only is he battling self-repairing, multi-limbed killing machines, but also, all conventional weaponry is banned due to the need to attain a live specimen, much to the chagrin of the lads on the job.

As hinted at before, the dialogue is of messianic proportions, with Fahey of course getting all the best lines, just look at this quick selection of some of his finest:

“We’re off the elevator”

“Listen lady there’s no way in hell that we’re gonna catch fifty of these goddamn bugs alive”

“Take this and try not to shoot me”

The film isn’t afraid of a few cinematic references. We have the Alien films, typified in some ways by the female lead, but in more ways by the sight of Fahey with a flamethrower. Truffaut’s Jules et Jim comes through ecstatically in a glance that Fahey gives to a soldier convulsing in a fit of scorpion sting. Also, that bit where a man gets shredded in half by a rampaging Scorpius Gigantus is very reminiscent of Annie Hall.

Some great lo-fi cinematography on show here, it’s bubbling over with danger, rather like old live recordings of Miles Davis. Fahey has obviously had an effect on the entire production in that all the background colours are blue, although that was probably unintentional, and was simply a refraction of Fahey into the ether.

In conclusion, it’s very rarely that a film comes along which is truly groundbreaking in every way, that has all the hallmarks of an eternal classic. Citizen Kane had them, The Godfather had them, Rear Window had them, and Scorpius Gigantus has them in spades, spades of Fahey! It’ll probably be years before its profundity is fully understood, when students study Fahey101 en masse at all educational levels, when Fahey scholars are not shunned into the peripherals of society, and when Fahey himself eventually transcends the life-force that only suppresses the deistical majesty that lies behind those eyes.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Curb Your Enthusiasm: The End (S5 E10)

‘The End’ is the final episode of the fifth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, shown just last night (Sunday 4th Dec).

Just to recap, this season has had two main consecutive story arcs, the first concerning Larry’s investigations into whether or not he was adopted, in which he hires a private detective to try and suss things out. The second relates to Richard Lewis, who requires a kidney transplant, and Larry, who is a blood match, doesn’t want to donate his kidney, and does everything he possibly can to get out of the bind this friendship has trapped him in.

The finale begins by Larry being informed that yes he is indeed adopted, and he flies out to visit his newly acquired parents. Hilariously they turn out to be ardent Christians from the mid-west, contrariwise to Larry’s New York Jew persona. Although, being as happy as he is that he is adopted, he takes to his new lifestyle, going to church, fishing, having a few beers. It’s so farcical to watch Larry walking down the street of small town USA with these two old people, wearing a T.G.I.F turquoise t-shirt, long shorts, bum bag/fanny pack, and straw hat, and being polite to people no less too.

But the old Larry’s still there, the old heartless obnoxious rogue we all love, like when his mother informs him of forgiveness being the best thing to do as that’s what Jesus would do, the look of disdainful acceptance on his face is priceless.

Other highlights of the episode include Larry’s elucidation of his DVD-watching system. It goes something like this, however I doubt I can fully put this across minus the use of at least seven scatter graphs and pie charts, but what he does is leave the DVD box on top of the DVD player, then once watching is completed he’ll take out the DVD, put it back in the box, and subsequently return it to its rightful shelf space. A proper and scientific protocol, not unlike my very procedures.

Also if there’s one thing I want to tell someone when I’m on my deathbed, on the very cusp of death, staring right into the abyss, I’ll make sure for it to be a critique about how that person uses way too much mayo.

Larry also has a great altercation on a plane when he doesn’t want the responsibility of sitting at the emergency exit, just look at this comedic brilliance:

STEWARDESS: All we need to know is that you are willing to assist passengers in the event of a non-traditional landing.

LARRY: I cannot be of any help whatsoever in any kind of non-traditional landing or any traditional landing.

Oh Larry, if only we could all be as gut-wrenchingly honest as you good sir. He even goes through a small guessing game at the exact oriental-origin of a lady sitting near him: Chinese, Thai? I heard recently of a Blog where you can test how well you can decipher the specific race of individual examples of our friends from the East.

A great end to another great season. May Larry David live on forever to continuously tickle our misanthropic funny bones.

The O'Reilly Factor Xmas Ornament

Hahaha, I don’t know what to say about this, how could words possibly ameliorate this to an even higher strata of hilarity? It deserves a poem, but now all I have is gut rot.

I will but leave you with the blurb from the Fox News website, incidentally they are available there for $9.95:

Put your Christmas tree in the ‘No Spin Zone’ with this silver glass ‘O’Reilly Factor’ ornament.

Why that’s exactly where I want my tree!

In Flames - The Jester Race

What happens to bands? Why must they always become increasingly banal and uninspired with time? OK, so it’s a generalisation, but those words are applicable to so many bands. In Flames are one such band.

Their last two albums (2002’s Reroute to Remain and 2004’s Soundtrack to your Escape) are nothing less than shocking to a fan of the older material. Granted, the more rhythm-based noodlings were becoming apparent on the previous two albums Colony and Clayman; especially the latter which regardless is still great, this just illustrates that a stylistic move does not necessarily have to result in soulless pap, it can be done, let it be known.

It makes me weep tears of blood to go back and listen to The Jester Race whilst thinking of the band’s contemporary material. I guess you can look at it two ways: positively, that at least they did release some excellent stuff back in the day, or negatively, focusing on the subsequent switch to mass appeal and rebellious teenagers. I’m not one to chant ‘sell-out’ at bands, because it’s difficult to truly know whether decisions were made to water-down in attempt to sell albums or twas a simple matter of wanting to alter sounds from an artistic point of view. But let’s just say that I don’t care for the newer work of this band.

And that brings us to the focal point of this review, the band’s second album, The Jester Race. It was released in 1996 during a particularly high point in Swedish melodic extreme metal, also unleashed around this time were the transcendent releases of Dark Tranquillity’s The Gallery (1995), Dissection’s Storm of the Light’s Bane (1995), and Eucharist’s Mirrorworlds (1997). It was a fine time indeed.

This album represents the pinnacle of In Flames’ career, and perhaps the entire melodic death metal subgenre in general. The album is a heaving cauldron of harmonious riffage, energetic compositions, and catchy melodies. At this point the band still retained some of the folkish qualities that had proliferated in the first album, probably best showcased in the occasional acoustic moments, such as the one which opens the proceedings in ‘Moonshield’.

The warm guitars are able to conjure up a wonderfully ethereal atmosphere with their harmonised tremolo picking and layered soundscapes. Some of the song highlights are fifth track ‘Lord Hypnos’, which may or may not be related to the H.P Lovecraft story, I’d assume not, presumably a different tale of sleepy events, nevertheless it has a superlative mid-section that builds from acoustic breakdown to a rising tide of guitar concord. ‘December Flower’ contains what has undeniably got to be one of the greatest guitar solos of all time, typified not only by it’s esteemed position amongst fans of the band, but also guitar fans in general. Interestingly enough the solo wasn’t done by either of the In Flames axe-slingers, it was Fredrik Johansson, former guitar man of Dark Tranquillity. It is simply an excellent, soulful journey of pleasantness, so smooth as to be untouchable by the human hand were it made physical. It swims around in a cataclysm of nodes and scalar shapes within a period of time that is only too short.

It’s a perfect synergy of melodious instrumentality and death metal brutality. Obviously distinct from bands such as Morbid Angel or Deicide, the band holds onto its death metal heritage mainly via Anders Friden’s raspy vocals and the intermittent drum flurries. Remarks along the lines of Swedish Iron Maiden, or extreme Iron Maiden, in the past clearly have validity, especially with the lead-guitar harmony histrionics.

To sum up, The Jester Race is the zenith of the musicology of Gothenburg ensemble In Flames. I said before that tears of blood were shed at the cognizance of the current state of affairs; well perhaps those tears will be soaked up by a good celestial gorging of the aural senses in a repeat listening of this high watermark of not only Swedish metal, but metal in general.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Scorpius Gigantus

“Tell us about Scorpius Gigantus” the seven brides of Fahey yelled at me. “I really don’t know that much, you gotta believe me!” I replied. “Tell us all you know or we’ll make cravats out of your eyes.” What could I do? I didn’t want to do all my seeing from the neck regions of a group of nihilistic savages, with hair streaked with the blonde of Fahey, baying for innate answers to life’s very profundities.

What did I know? I recalled for them in all its pristine virtue the IMDB’s plot outline, as seen here:

Geneticist seeks to make a name for herself by saving the planet from disease by using eons-old antibodies, harvested from enlarged six legged creatures. The creatures don’t like being big and escape. Send for help.

‘Fuck your bigness’ the creatures were probably thinking. Would a simple disambiguation equate ‘creatures’ to scorpions? Perhaps, but I didn't dare risk it for fear of the brides giving me the stink eye with their blue-contact-lensed eyes.

The cast list is headed by none other than that mastodonic and rectitudinous cream of Hollywood, the perpetual Jeff Fahey. As soon as his name was mentioned each bride took a large sigh and fell on the ground in a bludgeon of aneurysmal delight. I took this happening as my cue to get the hell out of there.

So there we go, that’s about all the knowledge I have on the flick. I seem to remember it being connected to the Sci-Fi Channel, or that might have just been a dream. I’m sure it’ll be a sleeper hit when eventually released, with Jeff Fahey starring how could it not!?!

I’d imagine being a Fahey flick it’ll continue his ceaseless existential investigations, why this one may even have ecological analyses of life, and I’d assume there’ll be a scene where Fahey is forced to get all Darwinian on those pesky scorpions.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Man and The Agent

A man steps slowly into the office of a well known showbiz agent. The agent is sitting at his large oak desk, head immersed in a big stack of papers. On hearing the man he looks up.

The agent: “What the hell do you want?”

The man proceeds: “Sir, I wish to tell you about a nightclub act my family and I have created, one which will net you only a great wealth.”

The agent replies: “Very well, what is your act?”

“Well,” the man starts, “first I enter the stage wrapped in a porcelain smock engraved with images of Tartaglia’s ballistics system on it. I then chip away the porcelain clothing, using a velvet axe, until I am left wearing nothing but a fine cheese wetsuit. My wife then comes out with a copy of Engels’ Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, which she proceeds to read out to the audience backwards in its entirety. Whilst she addresses the masses I perform ballet to GG Allin’s Expose Yourself to Kids. When this is finished my son and daughter come on stage dressed as Kierkegaard’s right eyeball. They are then absorbed via osmosis into both me and my wife.”

The agent, “...”

The man continues: “My wife removes her skin and it turns out that she is actually Bach, she goes on to toccata my ears. After this we swirl around in goat’s mucus while playing Monopoly. I let her win by taking a fall at the electric company. A reformed Faith No More come on stage and we eat their livers. I insert vibrating telegraph poles under my wife’s fingernails, at the same time she measures the geometry of a audience volunteer’s spectral mass. I scream bloody gore at her and we have a faux altercation which ends in me transmogrifying her atoms into The Secret World of Alex Mack. I then eat my own liver, take a bow, and walk off stage.

The agent: “Sounds great, what are you called?”

The man: “The fabulous Elton John experience.”

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Well I feel I must apologise for the lack of recent updates, i.e. the last couple of days, or at least explain why. Although all explanations would be rather banal and dull, how I wish I could say I’ve been roaming the crack dens of Tangiers, or been a part of a giant life-size game of chess orchestrated by a mad millionaire, or simply been trapped in a never-ending tea party featuring a hare and a dormouse.

Truth, if there is any, is rather more uninteresting. Various academic preoccupations, some involving an exegesis on anthropological time paradigms and social constructionism, and others involving The Simpsons and South Park. It’s not very interesting, and I won’t mention it again. Except just know that these things are rumbling about, and might very well carve huge chunks of free time from my person. And I’ve been feeling pretty lazy on top of that too.

Also there has been some recent agitations with damn people and their stuff, always stuff with these fuckers, stuff to make you look bad. If it’s not some peer showcasing filmic art to audiences, it’s someone else moving into the radio industry.

And where am I, what am I doing?

Slowly dying that’s what. But I did get a new jumper the other fuck them.

Chomsky in Vampire Hunter D

I was watching Japanese anime Vampire Hunter D last night, and I was struck directly in the jowls by a sight of much surprise. The main bad guy is a vicious vampire by the name of Magnus Lee, whose resemblance to Noam Chomsky is quite incredible I feel. Just look at that damned comparison photo over there.

Could it be? Could it be that the MIT linguistics professor and political activist did some moonlighting work during the mid-eighties in Japan? Were there other blood-fuelled animes that he was a part of? Perhaps he was one of those tentacles in Legend of the Overfiend? Or was that him on one of those bikes in Akira? Maybe he even went beyond the confines of animation, was that him getting all mechanised in Tetsuo? Hell, he could have been in one of the Guinea Pig flicks too, was he the scientist in Android of Notre Dame?