Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Music Album Review: Hellbilly Deluxe 2 by Rob Zombie

Better than HD1? I ask myself that question all the time, I rate it that highly.

Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is Zombie’s fourth studio album in his own name, as he was formerly of White Zombie. It is considered the brother to 1998’s hit album “Hellbilly Deluxe”, which also is considered his best effort, it was so well received there is a Deluxe Edition of the album now on sale.

Naming his new album Hellbilly Deluxe 2 was an ambitious move in my books. The reason is because his three other albums, as good as they are, were slowly getting worse. “The Sinister Urge” was a diluted “Hellbilly Deluxe”, and “Educated Horses” went in a very odd tangent, going more for the American Rock and commercial direction rather than keeping his raw industrial rock edge that he was so notorious for. This album also was jigsawed together, most if not all of it was actually finished around 18 months before release, and was delayed due to Zombie’s film priorities.

I felt that naming this album the sequel to his most successful album, after all these factors, the diluted previous album, the prioritising of his film, was a big mistake, it put a sour taste in my mouth when I heard about its imminent release. It just seemed lacklustre and inconsequential, especially as he is still only getting mixed reviews for his film efforts. Was this a big mistake?

The easy answer, no. This album IS Hellbilly Deluxe 2. It deserves to be named after his older brother. Does it follow “Hellbilly Deluxe” or “Educated Horses” in sound? The former, most definitely. This album is raw, it’s grisly, it’s melodramatic, and it’s silly. And that’s the Rob Zombie of old.

“Jesus Frankenstein” starts the album off perfectly, your typical Rob Zombie song, full of fantastic ghoulish lyrics and heavy guitars. The track also sounds likely to be the intro to his gigs as well; it has that type of vibe to it. From "Jesus Frankenstein" we then go to the main single of the album, being "Sick Bubblegum". It’s a decent track, not as crisp and striking as previous singles, but a very solid song. Track 3 is the best song on the album, named “What?”, which was another single, just sounds like The Munsters theme song twisted into a Rob Zombie machine. The track is just fantastically catchy, and Zombie’s vocals make the song, he just churns out the lyrics with his gruff and unique way, it’s just brilliant. “Mars Needs Women” is next, and this song is just great, the drums just sound like a stampede, and the main chorus being “Mars Needs Women, Angry Red Women”, it just makes you think that these huge red women are going to dominate the universe.

After that? Well that’s probably the main flaw in this album. The rest of the album is good; don’t get me wrong, but the epic beginning of the album just makes the rest of the album weak, and dilutes the experience. There are some very good songs, like “Burn”, which was a downloadable track on “Rock Band” the video game, and “Werewolf Women of the SS”, named after Zombie’s fake trailer in the great double feature film “Grindhouse”, which puts the very bizarre plot of female werewolves in control in Germany, and there’s nothing you can do about it (see the video below for the fake trailer).

The album finishes with “The Man Who Laughs”, a near 10 minute song complete with drum interlude. I’m bringing this song to your attention not because the song itself is great, but because of Tommy Clufetos, drummer of Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper, and his fantastic drumming ability. It’s an unusual Zombie inclusion and ending because I don’t think Zombie has done anything like this track before, and it’s an intriguing listen.

To wrap it up, I said earlier, “Hellbilly Deluxe" was considered his best album. Is this better? I ask myself that question all the time, I rate it that highly. It’s most certainly his second best album if not his best, the problem really is that almost perfect beginning, followed by the inferior second half of the album. It’s still a brilliant effort, I just wish he didn’t delay it for his film. Rob Zombie in my eyes always will be a great music artist first, and an overambitious film artist second. If you have heard his previous stuff, and were not sure whether or not to get this, please get it. You will not be disappointed.

Rating: ****1/2
Stand out tracks: What?, Mars Needs Women, Burn

Here is the fake trailer Rob Zombie did for the double feature film "Grindhouse":

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Game Review: The House of the Dead: Overkill

It’s funny, it’s trashy, it’s grimy, and it’s brilliant.

The House of the Dead: Overkill (in future I’ll just say Overkill) is one of a group of video games brought out by Sega in recent years to go in the direction of adult video games, other games including Madworld, Bayonetta, Condemned amongst others. Sega as a video game publisher has proved in the past that it’s not just about Sonic the Hedgehog, but can actually publish heavy themed video games and entertain the adults as well. But this isn’t the first in the series; in fact it’s a prequel of four House of the Dead games that came out between 1996 and 2005, with only the first two coming out on Sega consoles, being the Saturn and Dreamcast respectively. The latter two were only available in the Arcades, with Sega going bust console-wise. So The House of the Dead series has a relatively decent cult following with the Sega and Arcade fans, popular enough for two films to be made (they’re supposedly bad, I’d avoid).

For years things were quiet, and it never looked like another HOTD game would be made, so Sega decided to port the second and third games to see how interested the Nintendo fan base would take to the games on the Wii, with its Wiimote function a rail shooter would be ideal for its console. The reception was decent, and pressure was made by fans for a new HOTD game to be made. This is where Overkill comes in.

Overkill is set 7 years before the first game, where it seems the origins of the zombie (sorry, mutants) outbreak seems to stem. Agent G, who is a regular character in the game series, is a young rookie agent on his first assignment. After a tussle with Detective Washington, who is basically playing the typical foul mouthed black cop role, they agree to work together to find Papa Cesar, one of two main antagonists of the game, who is responsible for the outbreak. Along the way they also meet Varla Guns, an ex-stripper with a quick wit who also has her personal vendetta against Cesar. There is the second antagonist that I will not name for spoiler reasons, who is the best character in the game, and is a complete nut job, and is one of the most controversial characters in recent video games.

I’ve said the above paragraph in a very serious tone; however this game is not serious. In fact, it’s one of the funniest games I’ve ever played. The game is set to a Grindhouse theme, so if you are a fan of the 1970’s horror films, or most recently, the Grindhouse film series by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, and it fits in perfectly. The game has the imperfect film rail look, with lines and blurs appearing in the film frame, the places you go to are all Grindhouse specialists, like the hospital, the carnival and of course, the swamp. This added with all the cheesy bad acting the incredulous amount of gore and a swear-a-thon, make it a game not for the faint hearted. In fact, this game apparently uses the word “fuck” 189 times, and holds the record for the most use of the word in video game history. The constant bickering between Agent G and Detective Washington is just absolutely hilarious, and Varla Guns adds to the fun when she is around. To add more to the overdramatic tone of the game, we have a narrator who deep voiced and sarcastic, who makes the game complete in terms of giving us the most cheese I’ve ever seen in a video game. And that actually, is what separates this from the original game series, the other four games had terrible acting (especially the second), but was unintentional. This is as obvious as can be, and it’s fantastic.

Now onto the game play, this is a rail shooter so your path is predetermined, and you shoot on screen any mutants that appear with the Wiimote. The simple controls make the game very easy to get a grip of, but difficult to perfect. You see, there is a meter appropriately called Goregasm, which you will climax if you get a certain amount of shots landed on mutant flesh in succession. Reaching Goregasm is difficult enough, keeping the Goregasm meter full is even harder. What does getting Goregasm do? It gives you maximum points for hitting mutants. You may not be that bothered about your high scores, especially if you are playing it for the first time, but trust me, this game is one of the few games around that makes a high score system proud again. Competing with your friends for the high score is one of the fun things to do if you have done most of the things in the game.

That being said, there is a lot to do. There is the basic storyline, which follow the same format of “railing” through all the mutants, listening to the bickering between G and Washington, getting to the cut scene and beat the boss. As simple as that sounds, Overkill do it so well and the bickering is so funny you won’t get bored. There are other things to shoot besides mutants, like golden encrusted brains which give you a bonus score, health and grenade packs which speak for themselves, but most entertainingly, something called “Slo-Mo-Fo Mode”, which slows down the video game and increasing the air in mutants heads so you can shoot them there and hope for them to pop off with ease. Slo-Mo-Fo mode is absolutely satisfying, seeing all the heads pop or the limbs drop (I sound really sick but who cares!) in slow motion. It’s also great so you can reach Goregasm quicker, so they walk hand in hand. All of this is in one level, and you have many to complete the game, so that’s the main thing.

As I said there is a lot to do, if you complete the storyline, you can do many other things, like buy and upgrade your weapons all that specialise in doing different things, you can play minigames with up to four players. You can unlock art and music; you can view the cut scenes from the game. But the best thing that is the Directors Cut and More Mutants options. The Directors Cut is exactly what it says on the tin, it adds more layers to your levels to make it longer and the parts that it includes aren’t in the original rail. More Mutants simply adds more to the game, so all together you can be playing a longer version of the game, get more points than you did in the first place. It also is more difficult naturally.

My favourite thing about this game is actually the soundtrack. It follows the same Grindhouse theme, and it’s just brilliant. I’ll go as far as to say it’s possibly my favourite original soundtrack I’ve ever heard. When you’re playing the game the songs are all instrumentals, however the same songs in their entirety are played in the menu screens and listening to these songs with the lyrics are just so funny. The best song is the Carnival song because it’s a typical Country song with horrible lyrics, it’s just wickedly brilliant. So there are two ways to listen to each track because even as instrumentals the songs are good.

One thing I’d like to bring up is the ending. This ending is very controversial, it’s sick and twisted, and I’d recommend you really consider the game rating if you were to play this game, I don’t think any game can say their ending is as controversial as this. I’m surprised they got away with it. That being said it works well with the theme and if you don’t mind gore and the controversy then you’ll be fine.

One thing I’d like to say is this game didn’t sell tremendously, Sega games without the name Sonic don’t nowadays, which is disappointing. As I said Sega have been publishing solid games recently in the adult sections, yet they don’t sell. Sega as a brand name doesn’t sell which is really poor; they are making good games and deserve more recognition for their efforts. Because of this you can find this game quite cheap now, because it didn’t sell well enough, but in a certain way it’s good because now it won’t be such a financial risk to go for it. I believe if this game did sell more, the controversy surrounding the ending and the amount of swearing would have been under a lot more scrutiny.

Overkill is my favourite game on the Wii, it’s so cheesy and over the top you can’t help but love it, if you don’t mind the more controversial elements. It plays very well, it’s funny, it’s trashy, it’s grimy, and it’s brilliant. The only flaws are the fact that it won’t appeal to a wider audience, and once in a while you will get a glitch, like a mutant stuck in the wall or a hitch in time frame, but it steadies itself past these very quickly. Apart from that, this is close to perfection; I doubt you will play a more satisfying rail shooter than this.

Rating: ****1/2

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Mercy Side: Post Match Thoughts (Manchester City 3-0 Liverpool) 23/8/10

Hey people, this should be one of the columns I'll be posting on this site hopefully on a semi regular basis, depending on time and other works I might be doing. We'll see how this goes, and how you respond to it, if you do. Any feedback is appreciated.

Bad result, but it's the start of the season!

Well what a disaster yesterday was in some respects. Then again in other respects it's not that bad. I mean, thankfully we were away from home, and thankfully, the display wasn't awful, it's not like we played so bad we made them look good, it was that they were that damn good. Manchester City were pretty much flawless last night, they had their tactics spot on, they stopped us from playing, nullified our better players and worked their socks off to disrupt our play. It fricking worked.

Yesterday for me was the first time I've properly seen Mancini in the Sky Blue actually be a tactical genius. He played THREE defensive midfielders yesterday, and that just broke us. Yaya Toure was playing as an attacking midfielder, but tracked back when needed, which, in honesty, wasn't as often as we would have liked. He then played Barry and Kompany as the two settled defensive midfielders and it was perfect. Tevez, being the machine he is, just run our defence ragged and got himself two good goals.

Enough about City, I'm a Liverpool supporter. Where did we go wrong? Well, it's no excuse, but Mascherano was required yesterday. One thing that does annoy me about football is that players "aren't in the right frame of mind" to play. I have to work if I like it or not, footballers should be the same. Mascherano, unlike some players, play well despite being unhappy. He was well enough to play last week, but the Barcelona bid took his attention. Why? It's not like it's going to get sorted out in match time. Put it aside and talk about it the next day. It's frustrating.

The leaders on the Liverpool side were very disappointing as well, particularly Gerrard. He was trying his hardest to annoy Milner, instead of motivating our team to try and stay composed and work harder. We just lacked ideas, everything we tried failed. In those situations it's up to Gerrard to stay cool, stay relaxed and use his world class ability to try and come up with something magical. Not go and hound the opposition. Carragher lacked his usual leadership skills also.

Torres was a mixed bag, and I don't hold it against him, he will get sharper and sharper in the next few games. If this was 5 more matches down the line we then have an excuse to have a go. N'Gog was relatively quiet, apart from the only spell in the game where we put them under immense pressure. The words "if only" come to mind when I think about hitting that post...

I don't know if I need to talk about anymore individual players, but we did desperately lack energy yesterday, we lacked quality and creativity. I know some people have said Aquilani would have been good yesterday, but I'm still not convinced that he would have. He wasn't at all consistent last year; a year at Juventus will do him the world of good. We did lack Joe Cole in my opinion, the man just unlocks defences.

The main concern about yesterday is, how are we expected to get in the top 4 if Manchester City play so much better than us? It's a concern, but I'm not going to lose faith, it's only 2 out of 38 games into the season. Let's hope we can finish off Trabzonspor comfortably. West Bromwich Albion on the weekend, it's a good match to recover from this setback, let's hope we can do just that.

Date: 24/8/10

Friday, August 06, 2010

New Blog!

Hey everyone, Thanks for viewing my new blog.

I don't know how many of you have seen my work in the past, it's all pretty much disappeared off the internet now, but I have been doing my own thing for the past seven years. In this blog I'll just quickly go through a bit of history.

I've been writing freelance on the internet for seven years or so. That's not consistently, I have done nothing pretty much for three years due to actually being an adult and living.

But prior to that, I used to have a few websites where I would do my journalism on. I've done music album reviews, live gig reviews, video game reviews amongst other things. I had a little fanzine at one point also. I aspired to be a journalist greatly, but ambitions don't often work in reality.

For the past three years I've been on what I'd call a forced hiatus. When I moved from North Wales to Portsmouth, my computer broke on it's travels. I then worked in the Co-op, so all my concentrations were lost. I then got my fiancée pregnant, and moved to another job that requires equal attention. For the past three years I've grown up a lot, I'm a father, I earn a small wage.

But in the past three years all I've wanted to do is write again. Thanks to a good friend, namely Michele, I now have a computer again. I can interact with my old friends, and new friends too. I want to make a name for myself, I think I'm better than some of the people out there. I wouldn't say all, I have respect for most journalists, but I think I can add something.

So here I am again, writing. I will write mainly on four topics, those being music, video games, football, and wrestling. I will write other pieces I'm sure, and I'll probably do personal pieces once in a while. Also by all means, suggest things for me to write about. Any ideas are welcome. I will also include polls, Top 10 lists amongst other things. I have a gazillion ideas, I just don't know where to start. I want you to help me with that. Can you vote on the poll on this site, help me choose a subject to start with. I don't know what I will write on the winning answer, but I will do anything at the moment. I'd like to also say that I, naturally as you do with age, think I can write much better than I did three years ago. So we will see won't we!

One last thing, please, PLEASE, give me feedback. Help me out. Constructive criticism or compliments are both welcome. I just want to go in the right direction and I want to show you what I can do. I hope this is the beginning of a good journalism career! Thanks for hearing me out, and take care.