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Well, here we are. The end of another year. And as a year, overall, I think it’s safe to say that the majority opinion is that the year of our Lord Twenty-Sixteen SUCKED on so many levels, I’m pretty sure its effects can be felt on alternate dimensions and frequencies. Yes, there were a lot of celebrity deaths this year; however, this being a personal bligity-blog of mine, I’m not going to focus on all of those (though I really could, there have been many childhood favorites that have fallen this year). Instead, to at least make an acknowledgment of the ones that have been an inspiration to me, I’m going to pepper this post with YouTube clips of some favorites of mine while I wax nostalgic for the past year. However ugly it was.

First, I would be remiss if I didn’t start off with perhaps one of the biggest losses my family had this year: In the very first week of June, my Grandmother Betty Strand passed away. She was always a constant anchor in my life, as she was a strong, tenacious and lively cornerstone of the family, raising three children on the farm and being active in the community and such. Her loss has left a void in the lives of many.

And as long as we’re on the subject, along with Grandma, two Great Aunts also passed away this year: Aunt Janice and Aunt Muriel. Aunt Janice was Grandma’s younger sister, and was also a presence in the family growing up. Aunt Muriel was Grandpa Strand’s sister, and was another presence in the family growing up. We have a big family, and for better or for worse, we’re still pretty tight as a unit. I’m thankful for that, and thankful for having known them.

In July, there was a massive shakeup at the church I was attending. I really don’t want to go into the details (as we’re still healing and moving on), but suffice to say, there was a split. And after much deliberation, I decided to go with the ones who left, in helping to be a part of the healing and moving on. A new church was birthed out of what essentially started as a Sunday morning therapy group for those who were hurt from the split. Fortunately, this wasn’t formed out of spite, but out of a genuine desire to continue to serve God and Christ Jesus despite of the circumstances. Almost immediately, we’ve been seeing the Holy Spirit work with us to that end. In case you’re morbidly curious, here’s the website to peruse.

Of course, no year-end blog post would be complete without mentioning all the wackiness that happened in the culture. And this was probably the wackiest of the wacky. As in, the world just threw up its collective hands and went, “Okay, we all go crazy, now.” Besides all the celebrity deaths (which, as of this writing, still hasn’t stopped, it seems), who could forget the year-long freak show that was this round of Presidential elections? To quote one of the best parts of the movie Resivuar Dogs, “Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right”. On the left of the Presidential ring, the Senator wife of a former President. To the right, a business mogul/former reality show producer-star/comb-over enthusiast with little to no political experience whatsoever. After months and months of mud-flinging, passive-aggressive public whining, really bad ideas and desperate character assassinations (among other things), at the end of the day, it turned out that we all collectively stepped in some Trumpy-Dumpy. Gads, that episode of MST3K is so endlessly quotable. And given the fallout and the various updates on how Trump is lining up his next four years…yeah, this might make 2016 seem like the Golden Years in comparison. We shall see, as always. The road to Idiocracy stretches out ever before us. Still, I’m trying to figure out why so many of my fellow professing Christians seemed to treat his election as the next best thing to the Second Coming of Jesus.

And lest the Presidential elections overshadow the other bits of wackiness of the year: Britan decided to leave the European Union, citing “It’s not you, it’s me” and further stating “We can still be friends, though,” before deleting them from their Facebook lists; a cartoon frog is now declared a “hate symbol” because…reasons, I guess; the President of the Philippines threatened to burn down the UN; for several months, the entire country freaked out over clowns (well, moreso than usual); and last but certainly not least, there was that Dakota Access Pipeline protest that got rather ugly before an agreement could be made, only to have the protester’s point made for them by the pipeline itself. Delicious irony.

Okay, on to some more pleasant stuff. For all the downers, at least there were some really really good \,,/METAL\,,/ that was released: Megadeth came back in form with Dystopia in January, and then Anthrax released the melodic-yet-heavy For All Kings in February. Babymetal released Metal Resistance in March, which was more of the mutated J-Pop/Metal hybrid I somehow find irresistible. Death Requisite released some rather good death metal with their Revisitation release, while I found myself disappointed with the debut release from Becoming Saints, Oh The Suffering. Ricky Puckett unleashed his In Darkest Dreams project with The Vanishing, a much-needed injection of dark and brutal for my earholes. And then Hell apparently froze over, as Klayton dropped a surprise brand-new Circle Of Dust album, Machines Of Our Disgrace. And finally*, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Metallica releasing Hardwired…To Self-Destruct, which turned out to be quite decent.

On the movie front, this year started off strong with the most excellent Deadpool. The year had some decent ones, like 10 Cloverfield Lane (a lot better than what I expected), the new Ghostbusters, the Magnificent Seven remake, the Pete’s Dragon remake, Suicide Squad (surprisingly decent), and Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them (sorry, no review posted yet). The rather good movies this year were Captain America: Civil War, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, Star Trek Beyond, Doctor Strange, and of course, the year’s capper, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Of course, there were some stinkers in this year’s mix, which for me were Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Independence Day: Resurgence, and the surprisingly “meh” X-Men: Apocalypse.

And last, but certainly not least, in the more happier aspects of my personal life this year: This last Spring both my Nephew/Godson Christoper Rinas and one of my cousin’s eldest son Trevor Donahey graduated High School. Gads, I’m old.

So, that’s my year in a nutshell. To quote from one of my favorite episodes of M*A*S*H: “Here’s to the new year. May it be a damn sight better than the last one, and may we all go home before it’s over.”** Take that as you will. Whatever you do, celebrate heartily, but also somberly. Don’t be stupid. Me, I’m going to be doing my yearly Haunted New Years horror movie marathon whilst deciding what part of the clutter in my domicile is going to get the heave-ho. And there may be a bacon pizza in the mix, somewhere. Until next year (see what I did there?), I remain your humble servant Uncle NecRo. God bless, my wonderful freaks.

::END TRANSMISSION::

*– While I did review the new Klank album, the official release isn’t until January 13th, so that’s actually one to look forward to.

**– Season 9, Episode 6: “A War For All Seasons”

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Movie Review: ROGUE ONE: A Star Wars Story

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movie-review-rogue-oneLucasfilm/Disney
2016
PG-13

“I’ll be there for you. The Captain said I had to.”

In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key even in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.

Ever since Disney acquired the rights to the Star Wars franchise, and began to produce more movies set in the Star Wars universe continuing the story of the space opera set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, we’ve known that there was going to be a pattern where there would be a movie set in the Star Wars saga proper, then followed by a kind of side story to fill the gaps between the long-awaited Star Wars movies. Since Episode VII dropped last year, and while we wait for Episode VIII in another year, this year we got the side story of Rogue One.

Rogue One tells the tale of how the plans for the Death Star managed to get stolen and in the hands of the Rebellion in Episode IV. Going into this, I was expecting a decent enough movie, but something that, since it wasn’t a full-on Star Wars episode that features none of the main characters, maybe wouldn’t have been given the same kind of attention as those would. Fortunately, I was way off about that.

I’ve decided to go with a Spoiler Free review of Rogue One. I think the reasoning behind it would be self-evident. Nerd rage is never a good thing to endure. Anyway…

The story of Rogue One takes place pretty much immediately before the events of A New Hope. And by that, I mean that you can edit out the end credits to Rogue One and edit out the opening crawl to A New Hope, splice them both end to end, and it would flow together continuously. Construction on the Death Star has finished up, and the Empire is itching to take its new toy on some test runs. The Rebellion was informed of said weapon, and enlists the help of a young lady to try and get her former mentor to help out with getting intel. When that goes south, and when it looks like the Alliance is about to crumble, it’s up to this scrappy young lady and a group of scruffy-looking Nerf herders (and one reprogrammed Imperial droid with some serious gallows humor) to sneak into the facilities where the Death Star plans are kept and try and get them to the Rebel faction.

Rogue One is another example of why it was a very, very good thing that Disney took over the franchise. While this was really just a supplemental side story, the movie was nonetheless made in the same quality as if it was one of the main Star Wars movie. The story and the visuals were great, the characters were engaging, and while the tone is a very dark one (it brings out the “war” aspect of the Star Wars theme, making this the Dirty Dozen, or Inglorious Bastards of the franchise), there are some lighter spots, mostly with the awesomeness that is K-2SO. The movie is also doesn’t shy away from presenting the members of the Rebellion as having a bit of tarnish on their shining armor. And finally, in case you haven’t read any of the other reviews, Rogue One re-establishes Darth Vader as the intergalactic badass once again. I got chills.

On the parts that I didn’t really find all that great, though…well, let’s just say there’s a couple of instances where CGI was very much used to resurrect the dead for one, and de-age for another. While these were way better renderings than was done on, say, Tron: Legacy, there still was that Uncanny Valley effect that was a tad off-putting. Also, there were a couple of cameos that served pretty much nothing but fan wankery, but whatever. Minor quibble.

Overall, Rogue One could have been just a quickie side story in the Star Wars cannon (kind of like those two Ewok TV movies back in the 1980s), but instead it turned out to be a Star Wars story (see what I did, there?) of the same high quality of the others, something that ranks near the high-water mark which is The Empire Strikes Back. Highly recommended that you see this in the theaters while you can.

Music Review: KLANK – Rise

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klank-riseKLANK
Rise
Smoke Dogg
2017

Well, if there’s a consensus about anything, it’s that the year that is soon to be was 2016 sucked for a lot of people. It was a hard year, filled with many losses, with few actual bright spots to cling to. Fortunately, after this year is done, we have one bright spot to look forward to: the release of the new Klank album, Rise.

Yes, that’s the lead-in I went with. Because it’s my review on my blog, that’s why. I can’t believe I’m arguing with the voices again. Moving on…

Yes, it’s true. After a five year stretch between the release of Urban Warfare, the man behind the name of Klank recorded another album for me to add to my Personal Life Soundtrack to obsess over. While it’s not due to be released until January 13th of 2017, and while I normally wait until the official release before buying my own copy to listen to and review, I broke my own long-standing rule about that when offered the chance to listen to the pre-release copy. Because KLANK, that’s why. I believe I’ve used that expression before. And for those of you who are anxiously awaiting the release date and may have some questions as to what to expect with Rise, well…okay…let me tell you.

To say that Rise picks up where Urban Warfare leaves off would be doing this review a cliched disservice. Urban Warfare Pt. 2, this is not. Rise features a heavier and much more honed focus on the industrial metal we’ve come to love from Klank.

Since this is a pre-release review, I’d rather not spoil things too much with a track-by-track analysis like I’m tempted to do; I will say, though, that Rise is quality industrial metal, featuring a solid collection of heavy guitar riffs and harsh electronics complementing the vocals to lyrics that are exceptionally motivational, real grab life by the boys and yaaaaank kind of metal. Save for the one instrumental in the mix.

Overall, I would have to say the wait for Rise was very much worth it. Let me put it to you this way: While you can pre-order the album now (right here) and get a couple of tracks from the album for download right now, I have to say that those two aren’t my favorite from the overall set. They’re great tracks, yes, but there’s so much more waiting for you, come Friday, January 13th. The luckiest day for the Klank Nation.

Yes, I went with that for the sign-off. Stupid voices…

Uncle NecRo’s XMAS SPECIAL 2016

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uncle-necros-xmas-special2016

Featuring Cuts From:

winter-songsmidnight-cleara-twisted-christmasfleas-naughty-dog-vol-4happy-christmas-5

Uncle NecRo’s TOP 1O LEAST FAVORITE CHRISTMAS SONGS

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bah-humbugWe are now in full Holiday Clusterbomb Season, and now the Christmas songs are nigh-unavoidable. Here I am, sitting in my favorite Irish pub, listening to the Christmas mix playing overhead from the owner’s Spotify account, and since I have nothing better to write about at the moment, I thought I’d share with all of you wonderful freaks of mine my least favorite Christmas songs that I always stumble upon, despite my best efforts to block out the real world.

I kept things down to a cozy ten-ish, because I have to have something for next year…

10. “Happy Christmas”
…as an artist, John Lennon was overrated, as was that group he was in, the name of which escapes me at the moment. This particular Christmas song of his manages to be a smug passive aggressive lump of coal.

9. “Baby It’s Cold Outside”
…I think that, by now, everyone who hears this overplayed tune can recognize it for the creepy date rape-y song it is. I used to think nothing of it, kind of regulating it to barely noticed background noise, until someone said something about the lyrics, and now I can’t not hear it.

8. “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”
…this song was funny the first 500 or so times I heard it. I was also 10 when that happened. While I am fascinated by how long this ode to Seasonal Matricide has survived since being first released, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t roll my eyes and sigh whenever this comes on.

7. “Feliz Navidad”
…NO. Just…NO. I’ve never liked this song, I will cross my arms and give you Extreme Grumpy Face if you try and get me to sing along to it, and I find it a pity that it’s normally associated with the greatest Christmas-themed foodstuff ever concocted, Nachos Navidad from Taco John’s. Gad’s those are tasty.

6. “Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time”
…as much as I snarkily deride John Lennon, at least he wasn’t Paul McCartney. I can’t really think of a song of his that doesn’t suck the life force out of me when it begins playing. And this Christmas ditty is the equivalent of one of those glossy custom Christmas photo postcards, only in song form.

5. “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
…okay, let’s look past the fact that this is yet another smarmy star-studded guilt trip disguised as “social awareness” (the 80s was lousy with them); the children being referenced here technically live in a Muslim country, so even if they did know it was Christmas, chances are they wouldn’t be celebrating it anyway.

4. “Christmas Shoes”
…so, I finally forced myself to listen to this song, having been able to avoid doing so for all this time. And I have to say, how do you people live with yourselves? Why would you all think “Christmas Shoes” is a modern classic, when all it is is a nauseating fluff piece based on the doctrine of Sola Feels? I will admit, though, that I like to imagine the mother in this story, with her final dying breath, telling her child, “I wanted a necklace,” before dying. Followed by the standard “Wah-wah-waaaaaaah” trombone.

3. “Mary Did You Know?”
…speaking of overplayed so-called modern “classics”, I’m not content to just turn the channel on the radio whenever this one comes on, but I must go beyond that and turn off the power to said device all together, then smash it with a hammer and burn the pieces, for it was rendered unclean and had to be purged.

2. “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas”
…I want to stab this song repeatedly with several large sharpened candy cane shivs, set the corpse on fire, and roast chestnuts over it whilst drinking eggnog.

1. [TIE] “Chipmunks Christmas Song”/”All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth”
…I couldn’t decide which one of these old novelty songs were more annoying, so I decided to end with a tie. Released back when my own parents were wee children, these two songs are always trotted out and played ad nausium on all radio stations doing a Christmas mix for the season. Mind you, they’re only marginally worse to listen to than the Number 2 spot on this list, but somehow I get extra twitchy whenever these come on, and I find myself diving for the OFF switch on whatever device they’re emanating from.

So, there it is. The songs that make me more of a Scrooge whenever they pop up. There will be more for next year, I’m sure. In the meantime, feel free to send your thinly-veiled hate mail to necrosarx@gmail.com. Cheers, all, and Merry Christmas, if I don’t get around to posting another thing until the end of the year.

::END TRANSMISSION::

Uncle NecRo’s TOP 100 CHRISTIAN ALBUMS FROM THE 1990s, Part 5: 20-1

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Here we are, arrived at Part 5, the final ten in this little mini-series on the blog. Hope it was good for you. I know you’re just itching with curiosity to know what the rest are, so without further adieu:

mortification-mortification20 – Mortification (Mortification)
…this was my first exposure to this new fangled style of metal that was Death Metal. Back in the tail end of 1992, on the trip back from a national youth group convention in Texas, someone in the van I was riding in lent me his copy of this album, because he saw the Destruction Comes cassette in my collection. I’ve been hooked ever since.

crashdog-mudangels19 – Mud Angels (Crashdog)
…what do you know, actual legit punk rawk, at a time when “punk” consisted of the radio-friendly pop styles of Green Day, MxPx and…some other bands, I don’t really know much about all of that. But this, nothing slick about this rawness.

circle-of-dust-disengage18 – Disengage (Circle Of Dust)
…dark, electronic goodness that goes great with brooding.

no-innocent-victim-1997-no-compromise17 – No Compromise (No Innocent Victim)
…one of the better of the so-called “Spirit-Filled Hardcore” bands I’ve come across, only slightly less pretentiously amusing than those Straight Edge bands.

one-bad-pig-i-scream-sunday16 – I Scream Sunday (One Bad Pig)
…while the inclusion of the duet with Johnny Cash on his song “Man In Black” is enough to warrant this as the best of One Bad Pig’s discography to date, there’s some seriously good cuts on this besides just that song.

leaderdogs-for-the-blind-lemonade15 – Lemonade (Leaderdogs For The Blind)
…since it was given to me by one of my alternative music snob friends, I was expecting just that. Imagine my surprise when this turned out to be pretty good industrialized rock.

pod-snuff-the-punk14 – Snuff The Punk [Rescue Records 1994 Version] (Payable On Death)
…yep, there’s Payable On Death in my collection. Yep, it’s been in there since long before they became youth group darlings. Yep, this original version is preferable to the post-fame remaster re-release version. Yep, I refuse to call the band “P-O-D”. Yep, even I want to punch myself in the face right now.

stryper-against-the-law13 – Against The Law (Stryper)
…like with the Bloodgood entry, this is the only studio album Stryper released in the 1990s, so I can’t include the previous releases. But, unlike the Bloodgood entry, this album is very good and should be listened to a whole bunch of times.

seventh-angel-lament-for-the-weary12 – Lament For The Weary (Seventh Angel)
…after only hearing a couple of their cuts on the Arise Skates compilation, I found this at a Camelot Records. Good find, methinks.

jesus-freaks-socially-unacceptable11 – Socially Unacceptable (Jesus Freaks)
…I remember this being the first legit thrash album I’ve heard from a Christian band, immediately comparing it to Metallica in their Ride The Lightning era. Oh, how adorable I was back then. Still, great little EP.

groms-ascension10 – Ascension (GROMS)
…pity these guys didn’t produces more than just this album. Great death metal, this one is.

seventh-angel-the-torment9 – The Torment (Seventh Angel)
…I like this debut album just slightly more than their second one, simply because it’s more straight-up thrash. They’re both excellent, though.

deliverance-what-a-joke8 – What A Joke! (Deliverance)
…my first Deliverance album, also my first exposure to the existence of Christians playing thrash metal. Which is why this one is the most-listened to album of their discography.

living-sacrifice-nonexistent7 – Nonexistent (Living Sacrifice)
…my first exposure to the band that is Living Sacrifice, I got this because of the cover art alone. I was thinking, “wow, they sell this at a Christian bookstore!” Fortunately, the death metal was fantastic to boot.

circle-of-dust-brainchild6 – Brainchild (Circle Of Dust)
…heavy industrial metal goodness. More in the vein of Ministry than Nine Inch Nails, and it still hasn’t gotten old over 20 years later.

klank-1997-still-suffering5 – Still Suffering (Klank)
…I cannot tell you how many speakers I’ve damaged cranking this thing. Or how many countless hours of darkness this helped me get through.

rackets-drapes-candyland4 – Candyland (Rackets & Drapes)
…I could write pages on how this album by this particular band was such a paradigm shift for me when I first discovered it, but that would defeat the purpose of a brief synopsis for this list. Maybe later.

vengeance-rising-destruction-comes3 – Destruction Comes (Vengeance Rising)
…you long time Vengeance Rising fans are probably wondering why I placed this one so high on the list. Well…it was the first Vengeance album I owned, and it was the first one to pop into my head when I was brainstorming. Also, sometimes you just need to sit back and GRIND.

tourniquet-pathogenic-ocular-disonance2 – Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance (Tourniquet)
…hmmm, what’s that? You’ve been wondering which Tourniquet album I deem to be better than Psycho Surgery? Why, it’s this one, silly. No, no, don’t feel bad. You’re not the only one who’s wrong.

mortification-scrolls-of-the-megilloth1 – Scrolls Of The Megilloth (Mortification)
…and the top spot goes to the greatest death metal album to ever be released, period.

::END TRANSMISSION::