Music Review: SKALD IN VEUM – 1260 Days

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skald in veum - 1260 daysSKALD IN VEUM
1260 Days
Rottweiler Records
2015

For the most part, the first thing that pops to one’s mind when you say Black Metal would be Norway. That’s the traditionally thought-of birth place of one of the most extreme of the metal genres, naturally. But the spores of the genre inevitably took root in various other countries, and soon we saw Black Metal bands, as well as Black Metal-influenced bands, popping up in the most curious of places. Swedish Black Metal, however, seemed rather inevitable. And that’s my little way of seguing into talking about this release by Swedish Black Metal band Skald In Veum.

After forming in 2013, they released this EP–1260 Days–in 2015 through Rottweiler Records, both in the physical CD format and as a digital download. Whichever format you go with, 1260 Days is a fantastic just short of 30 minutes of harsh, unrelenting old-school Black Metal that’s well worth the money spent for this.

After your standard brief ambient intro featuring ravens cawing with a storm brewing in the background, the first proper cut from the release, “Drunk With Tainted Blood”, rips into your earholes, slaying your auditory senses with shredding riffs and face-melting blastbeats, intermixed with bone-chilling croak-shriek vocals that let up only briefly to hit you with some slow, thick and dark doom progression. For the entirety of the EP, all of the songs on here–including “Inferno”, “Eden Raped”, “Until My Head Rolls” and “Siaren”–maintains this style of Black Metal, with a strong early Dark Funeral vibe, with a bit of a Death Metal influence that shows up once in a while, especially with the lower register of the vocalist. Not that it’s a bad thing, mind; it adds a bit of texture to the scope of the music. The production is good, and the music is tight, lending itself to a very, very enjoyable listening experience from the get-go. Overall, I would say that 1260 Days was well worth your time checking out. Here’s hoping for more from the band in the future.

Movie Review: KONG: Skull Island

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kong skull islandWarner Bros.
2017
PG-13

“An uncharted island. Let me list all the ways you’re gonna die: rain, heat, disease carrying flies, and we haven’t started on the things that want to eat you alive.”

Scientists, soldiers and adventurers unite to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean. Cut off from everything they know, they venture into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature. As their mission of discovery soon becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape from a primal world where humanity does not belong.

King Kong. What can I say that hasn’t already been said, really? He’s one of the, if not the original Giant Monster of cinema, with Hollywood trying again and again to capture that movie magic of the original…and the results being mixed at best. I mean, I did rather enjoy Peter Jackson’s King Kong movie from 2005, even though it did seem a bit too big for its own britches. And that’s a phrase I never though I’d be using ever.

Now, here we are in the Teens of the the 21st Century, and the big trend right now is making everything that can even remotely be shoehorned into a shared cinematic universe, no matter how ridiculous sounding, given a movie that does just that, their standalone movie being an introduction to that character. Yeah, we have the Marvel Cinematic Universe to thank for that. Anyway, it seems that there’s a push for a shared kaiju universe that may or may not have been planned out when the 2014 Godzilla movie came out, but here we have Kong: Skull Island, which does indicate that there’s gonna be a Giant Monster Universe of movies that are going to be popping up in the near future. And quite frankly, if they’re all going to be of the quality that Kong: Skull Island was, then I’m all in.

Before I proceed, full disclosure: I never got around to watching Kong: Skull Island when it was in the theaters. The plan was to watch it in the local Second Run theater, where the ambiance of the place lends to the atmosphere of watching a giant monster movie. It’s what I did with the 2014 Godzilla movie, and I just wanted to continue the trend. Alas, I was a bit too busy, and by the time I found time, it was already out of the Second Run and on DVD/streaming. Anyway, on to the movie itself…

After a flashback where we see a couple of World War II fighter pilots–an American and a Japanese–crash land on a South Pacific island and have their ideological differences smacked away soundly by a giant ape hand, we fast-forward to 1973 (good year, that) and the end of the Vietnam War. Here, a government agent decides to take advantage of the military’s sudden down time and hires them to help with an expedition out to that remote South Pacific island, known now as Skull Island. Because of course it would be named that. Bringing along some scientists, a photojournalist and the helicopter squadron the Sky Devils, they arrive at the island, and–with some choice Black Sabbath blaring along–suddenly find themselves dodging trees. Not because they were flying so low, but because the trees were being thrown at them. The source of this being King Kong, the giant ape, so everyone should be thankful that he was lobbing trees at them, and not something more…scatological. Anyway, they all crash at different points on the island, and everyone discovers the hard way why Skull Island is not in the running to be the next vacation destination. One group stumbles upon the surviving American WWII pilot, makes friends with the natives and learns more about Kong and what he does (hint: he’s actually rather fond of the humans), as well as the other nightmare fuel monsters that dwell there. They also found the way off the island. Meanwhile, group two, lead by Lieutenant Colonel Samuel L. “Insert One Of His Famous Catch-Phrases Here” Jackson, decide to deal out a bit of the ol’ eye-for-an-eye on Kong, due to so many dying by the initial tree attack. Of course, this just rouses out the island’s actual big-bad, which shows up to make everyone mess themselves while trying to get away. Too bad Kong is all crispy and dead and all. Just kidding, of course he’s all right. I mean, how else are they going to do the sequel, amiright?

Kong: Skull Island was…awesome. There, I said it. I didn’t think I would enjoy the movie as much as I did, but here we are. We have a nice, tightly made King Kong movie that comes in at a nice 90 minutes, doesn’t waste much time to getting to the Giant Monster action (and not making everyone wait over an hour to even get to the island, Mr. Jackson), and still manages to flesh out the characters and story enough to keep you engaged until the after credits scene that effectively previews all the movies they’re wanting to make in this universe. The scenery and effects were rather good, as was the nightmare fuel that were the indigenous creatures of the island. And yes, the action scenes were breathtaking. The actors were fantastic, giving credence to their motivations, especially Samuel L. Jackson’s Lieutenant Colonel, which has kind of an Ahab arc through this.

Overall, I have to say that Kong: Skull Island is a great giant monster movie. A really entertaining giant monster movie that doesn’t seem too long, and actually makes me kind of excited about this whole shared universe of movies they’re going for. Definitely check this one out some night, maybe as a double-header with the 2014 Godzilla. Recommended.

WILDERNESS WANDERINGS: The Journey So Far…

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NecRoSarX Chronicles Header

SOUNDTRACK:

Here we are, the so-called “Dog Days” of summer. It’s nearly the middle of August already. Soon, it shall be September, and leading into my favorite time of the year. But for now, I’m taking a bit time to bring everyone up-to-date as to my self-imposed wandering around the wilderness that set on at the end of April.

You might recall the reason for my doing this, but just in case there is need of a refresher, this should bring you up to speed. Needless to say, while I’ve been keeping to myself mainly during my spiritual…quest? Does that sound too pretentious? I’m sure I’ll think of a better word hours after I’ve posted this. Anyway, despite this being somewhat private for me, I thought a bit of blogging about things so far will do me some good.

The thing to understand, first off, about so-called Wilderness Times, or wanderings, or Desert Times, or whatever spiritually-sounding euphemism you want to go with, is that they never really go the way you expect them to do. You start off, thinking you’re going to go out and isolate yourself (figuratively in my sense; I’ve known plenty who have done so literally…and a couple with a literal wilderness and/or desert of some sort), and spend one-on-one time with Father God, Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and have a splendid time and grow spiritually and find out my next chapter in my life and blah blah blah. I always get these Disney-fied ideas of what I think is going to happen: I walk outside to a sun-shiny morning, a bird or two land on my shoulder or my outstretched finger, a deer wanders out of the bushes, along with maybe some bunnies or squirrels or something, and then the Hillsong United song starts playing out of nowhere and everyone’s singing along. Then I read the Verse of the Day on Biblegateway.com, and the rest of the day just falls together perfectly. You know, much like it happened with Jesus for those forty days in the desert [citation needed].

But then, you say something stupid. And by “stupid”, I mean “in a superficial manner”, or “glibly”, “thoughtlessly”. During your prayers or whatnot, you say or write down something like, “Break me,” or “Refine me with Your Holy Fire, o Lord my God”. Because it sounds so gosh-darned super-spiritual, right? Been there, done that. I never really meant it back when I said those things before. I would say, “refine me in Your fire,” during my prayer sessions, sometimes out loud with others who were praying with me, not really expecting much of anything to come of it.

But then, a funny thing happened, something some of you who have been through this before could see coming from miles away: God said, “Okay,” and took me up on it. Not to get into details on that, on account this is about my current Wilderness Wandering thing, but the point is that God was serious about His relationship with me, even though I, for lack of a better turn of phrase, wasn’t. To say that was a wake-up call is to understate things greatly. And in case you were wondering, that happened when I was 19. I’m 43 at the time of this writing, and the whole “refinement” process is still an ongoing thing.

Through the years, I may have a much deeper understanding on how serious God is with His love and desire for me to be sanctified through His Holy Spirit; but no matter how many Wilderness Wanderings I go on, He always manages to pull the rug out from under me, completely destroy my preconceived ideas of what to expect, and brings up some dross I never knew I had.

The refining process sucks. It always does, and never gets easier, no matter how many of these I go through. There’s no sugar-coating this for you freshly-minted-by-the-Holy Spirit types: If you’re serious about your faith and not just playing some stupid Christian game, God is going to do the same with you. But…it’s a good thing. Just like it is with what I’m going through right now.

As to what that is…I’m not ready to share that specific detail. I’m still wrestling with it, sometimes late through the night, letting the Holy Spirit to His thing, trying to suss out everything in my head. It’s complicated. Maybe one day I’ll be able to put it in words. I can say I’ve talked about it with a couple of people from church that I trust with this information, which has helped a bit. But for now, I continue to wander the wilderness, seeking God and letting Him be Who He is and all that.

That’s it for now. Any questions and/or comments can be directed to my email: necrosarx@gmail.com

Cheers, all.

::END TRANSMISSION::

UNCLE NECRO WATCHES: The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature

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UNCLE NECRO WATCHES

nut job 2

I just took in a showing of The Nut Job 2 with my nephews during a Fun Day type weekend I had with them (they’re growing up so fast…cue “Cats In The Cradle”), and instead of writing out a review of the movie (as I normally do), I thought I’d record my thoughts on it during my drive back to the Haunted Victorian after dropping them off. Here’s the result, for better or for worse:

Does this mean more Uncle NecRo Watches… type mini podcasts like this in the future? Eh, depends on my mood, I guess…or how much of a response these give. I mean, who doesn’t have movie review vlogs and podcasts and such. Cheers, all.
::END TRANSMISSION::
necrosarx@gmail.com

Music Review: DANIEL AMOS – Doppelganger

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daniel amos doppelgangerDANIEL AMOS
Doppelganger
Alarma Records
1983

Daniel Amos’ fifth release continues the overall Alarma Chronicles concept, something that I still have no idea what the story itself entails. But, at least the second part itself, Doppelganger, is a rather good entry in the series. Also, it’s a great classic New Wave record in its own right, methinks.

Having a bit of a darker tone than that of the previous release, Doppelganger nonetheless manages to maintain the high quality musicianship and writing, putting out a very detailed and multi-textured album, filled with some of the best writing going as well as showcasing the bent sense of humor the band was famous for. If that wasn’t evident by the album cover–a slightly unsettling monochrome image of a mannequin–then you’re not paying attention.

The album itself kicks off with a brief yet mind-twisting intro “Hollow Man”, played backwards with spoken words and an avant-garde bent, which leads into the first proper cut of the album, “Mall (All Over The World)”, which is an infectious and dark New Wave cut with a funky bass hook that will get into your head like none other, there. “Real Girls”, “Memory Lane”, and “I Didn’t Build It For Me” feature that kind of New Wave style, yes; but like with their previous releases, the band branched off into other styles while keeping things unmistakably their own: “New Car!” has a cool rockabilly style, almost psycho-billy in a way before that became a thing; “Do Big Boys Cry?” isn’t necessarily a ballad, but it comes close; “Youth With A Machine” and “Little Crosses” are guitar-driven with some good hooks, while “The Double” and “Angels Tuck You In” are more janglepop, with the later having a classic Elvis Costello vibe to it. “Distance And Direction” has a Caribbean vibe to it that reminds me of another song from that time, the title of which escapes me greatly; “Autographs For The Sick” is another avant-garde tongue-in-cheek spoken word bit over ambient played music; the final song, “Here I Am”, has a very Beatles-esque somber-brite quality that just burrows down into your brain and will have you whistling it absently long after the record ends on the second part of the “Hollow Man” intro.

So, as I’m coming to understand the further I look into the Daniel Amos discography, you can’t just casually throw on a Daniel Amos record in the background and leave it; Doppelganger as an ablum begs to be listened to, closely, to take in the various textures and layers and lyrical play melded together into a whole. The production is fantastic, and you can tell a lot of time and careful crafting went into the making of this. I’m just now beginning to realize why the band ranks so high on everyone’s list of influential Christian bands. This release comes highly recommended.

Movie Review: LIFE

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lifeColumbia Pictures
2017
R

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are on the cutting edge of one of the most important discoveries in human history: the first evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars. As members of the crew conduct their research, the rapidly evolving life-form proves far more intelligent and terrifying than anyone could have imagined.

I grew up being a space science nerd at a very young age. I remember being fascinated with space and space travel since before Kindergarten. My parents maintained an ongoing subscription to Discover magazine for several years for me (it had the most pictures and stuff), as well as encouraged me to learn more about this area of study as much as they could. Of course, this just fed into my growing love of the science fiction genre, especially with movies. Which is to say, sooner or later it was inevitable that I would get around to watching the latest Alien rip-off, Life.

Okay okay okay, maybe “rip-off” is the wrong word to use, here. I mean, on the surface, the premise of Life (which, sadly, does not involve shots of the nummy cereal food) seems pretty similar, with some modifications: a bunch of scientists on the International Space Station discovers microscopic life within a soil sample taken from a Mars expedition, they manage to revive said life and watch in fascination as the space amoeba grows from microscopic to a CGI blob-ish thing. Eventually, one of the scientists decides to zap the alien blob because science, which annoys the blob–which was named Calvin by the scientists, by the way, like how you name a goldfish–leading to it somehow kicking the butt of the scientist and escaping its enclosure, and managing to kill a couple other scientists before getting out of the lab. Also, whenever Calvin eats something, it (he?) gets bigger. Naturally. Soon, the surviving scientists find themselves trying their darndest to survive and not get eaten, while the damage to the space station mounts along with the body count. Soon, it’s down to two remaining scientists, who hatch a plan to lure Calvin into one of the escape pods and blast him back out into deep space. Only, this involves one of the scientists to be inside with Calvin and manually override the preset controls to get it to not land on earth, while the other scientist escapes on the other pod to get back to Earth and warn everyone of a potential threat. We then end on a twist that everyone saw coming the moment the solution was mentioned. The end.

Life, as a science fiction movie, is fine. It’s well-shot, well acted and manages to get some effective claustrophobic thrills out of a story that is rather cookie-cutter. Again, I refer back to the comparisons to the movie Alien that everyone seemed to be making, and there’s some point to that; after watching Life, I personally like to think that this was more a prequel to the movie The Blob, mainly due to how Calvin ate and metabolized everything. And while we’re on the topic of Calvin, I have to say that the “monster Calvin” effects were kind of…off. He came off as kind of an underwater fern thing rather than a space monster. But, in the end, while I saw the ending coming, I was pleased with the standard dun-dun-duuuuun ending they went with.

Overall, I get the nagging feeling that Life would have worked better as an episode of the revival-era Outer Limits television show, rather than a full-length movie. The movie does try to get that hard sci-fi cred with how they approach the science part of the fiction; by the time the ending credits roll, though, I wasn’t really craving more beyond that. Worth a rental, at least.

Music Review: RESURRECTION BAND – Colours

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Resurrection Band - ColoursRESURRECTION BAND
Colours
Light Records
1980

After getting the left foot of fellowship from Star Song Records, Chicago-based rock n’ roll troubadours Resurrection Band got signed to another gospel label–Light Records, a label that was, at the time, better remembered as the home of Andreae Crouch and the Sweet Comfort Band. It’s not like they had much of a choice in the matter; there were literally no labels in the Christian market that specialized in that new-fangled rock and/or roll music those rebellious kids were all into. They had to make due with getting lucky, and having a record executive experiencing a momentary lapse of reason and sign them. Or something like that.

After getting signed to Light Records, they recorded and released their third album, Colours. Colours goes for more of a straight-forward guitar-driven hard rock sound than from the previous two releases, yet maintains the raw quality to the music and writing that typifies the band’s style. What resulted was a more streamlined record, but certainly not a corporately produced rock record.

The album kicks off nicely with “Autograph”, which features an extended hard rock riff hook before Wendy Kaiser’s vocals kick in. It’s here I should point out that Colours is a solid front-to-back collection of hard rock, with no ballads to speak of. The closest they come to a “ballad” is penultimate cut, “Beggar In The Alleyway”, which is slower, yes, and does feature an acoustic guitar, but is a rock tune, make no mistake. For the majority of the time, you’re bopping your head along to some fast paced hard rock (“N.Y.C.”, “Amazing”, “American Dream”, “Benny & Sue”) and some mid-paced heavy rockers (“Colours”, “Hidden Man”, “City Streets” and album closer “The Struggle”), all featuring some of the tastiest guitar riffs and hooks with solid rhythms going, all with husband and wife duo Glen and Wendy Kaiser’s raspy and passionate vocals adding weight to the music. What really separated Resurrection Band’s brand of “Christian Rock”, though, was the fact that they weren’t afraid to sing about topics that were mainly avoided in the CCM market then or even since: homelessness, teenage pregnancy, depression, and others from a very solid Christian worldview, refusing to be one of those shiny-happy Christian bands that can get played on the radio. That, and their rock n’ roll was legit, something you can sneak into a mix of 70s-era AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and other hard rock staples of the time, and no one would bat an eye.

Overall, Colours is a classic hard rock album that I’m sure sounded amazing on vinyl, but I was quite a bit late in discovering Resurrection Band’s back catalogue. It’s a solid back-to-front collection of premium hard rock that, if you haven’t heard this one yet, you owe yourself to check it out sometime.

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