Games Meet Metal: August 2010

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

8-Bit Metal Tuesdays: Welcome to Sleep Deprivation

On Sunday's, I generally pull an all dayer at my main job. It can be hellish, but it does leave me plenty of free time during the regular week, as all my hours would be accounted for already. Well, I did the same thing this week. Pretty rough day, with the super warm temps outside clashing badly with the heat on the inside. Still, I got though it, went home, and prepared for my day off.

Then my phone rings at 8:30 AM.

One of the other managers had an emergency and needed to take care of it ASAP, so that meant I had to come in. After pulling an open to close. After only a few hours sleep, because I always fall asleep late. You can see where this is leading.

So, after working my shift, I was barely even alive. The body needed sleep, and it needed it now. So I fell asleep at 8:30 PM. Jeez, I haven't crashed that early since grade school. However, in the end, I benefited. I got Tuesday off, which meant I got to mess around with the new Metroid and the Dead Rising prologue. Oh, and the Vanquish demo. Haven't gotten far enough in the previous two to form a proper opinion, but I will say this about Vanquish: picture Gears of War turned into a bullet hell shooter.

Of course, it was after I turned off all the electronic fun for the night that it dawned on me that my tired ass didn't do and 8-bit Metal Monday. So now, Ima make up fo dat! I've been looking over the schedule for PAX this year, wishing ever so much that I was there. Even their concert area, which usually goes toward the real geeky stuff I don't dig, is featuring some rock and metal. Case in point are the Mini-Bosses, who rock out to bleepy 8-bit classics on real instruments. They're no Powerglove, but they're good in their own right. Here's their version of the Contra theme.

Sturby Returns! Part 1: Concerts

Greetings all. It's been a while and I want to let you know that I am still alive after the summer months. Between a vacation to Florida and going camping every weekend I've been one busy guy! Since I'll have weekends to myself (more or less) these days I will have time to get back to doing the things I love; playing video games and talking music (and watching hockey when the NHL starts up)! That's not to say that I haven't been playing any video games or listening to some sweet tunes but now that summer is over there will be a whole lot more to discuss. Since I mostly do concert, video game and music reviews I will be splitting up my recaps into two parts for each category just to keep things nice and tidy (and so I can produce more posts for the site cause I'm crafty like that). So here's a look back at some of the concerts I attended this summer.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Give Unto The Bone Marrow Registry, For Nergel Will Be Pleased

The big news this week has been Behemoth front man Nergel's recent diagnosis of advanced leukemia. It's so far along that the poor guy needs a bone marrow transplant ASAP, or things won't be looking to good for the Polish metal giant. Fuck me, man! How many hits can the metal world keep taking? Peter Steele, Paul Gray, and Dio are already gone this year. Shit man, Dio was dead six months after his diagnosis, and his cancer wasn't looking too life threatening. Now with Nergel's cancer being advanced, and Poland's health care system not necessarily tops in the world, what's a blackened lord of evil to do?

Well, there isn't much he can do except wait for a viable donor, but there is something YOU can do! Visit and go get yourself registered to be a bone marrow donor. All it takes is three cotton swabs on the inside of your mouth and you're done. You'll have the rest of the day free to denounce God, play some Mario, or gleefully jerk it to midget porn. Plus, if Poland allows an international registry, then maybe there's a chance you can help Nergel keep throwing Christians to the lions for just a wee bit longer.

Free Music Via E-mail: The Dual Riff Review

Every so often, I get sent a promo cd from an unsolicited source. Generally, it's just a band member. Usually, the music is pure drek. The biggest senders are crap black metal bands from the back woods of Europe who sound like they've never listened to a Mayhem record. However, I do get a decent one here of there, and today I'll share a couple of them with you.

Enemy Logic hails from the very young metal scene of Ireland. You'd think there would be more metal streaming out of Ireland, what with alcohol consumption being a key ingredient in both the country and the music. But I digress. There's metal there, it's hungry, and they're recording. EL's second album, Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind is what I was sent, and it is definitely a young band learning the ropes. Their metalcore/dethcore style is very American influenced, right down to the mild use of effects here and there.

I say there's true potential here, but I do have a couple gripes. First is that while the metalcore style may help them stand out in Ireland, they may just look like another member of the "cool metal kids" crowd with the outside world. That will definitely be a bad mark if Enemy Logic ever plans on doing some massive touring. If EL is lucky enough to make a 3rd record, I say it would be time to start branching out musically so that you can differentiate yourself from the crowd if they ever tour abroad.

My second gripe is that the album has an odd sounding mix. I say that when the 3rd album comes around, invest some good money in a really good mixer. Breakdown sounds like it has the guitars to high and the drumming too low. I think the drums are the best part of the cd and need to be showcased more.

Other than those two gripes, I say that Enemy Logic are well on their way in the metal world. Wanna check them yourselves? Go to their Myspace and make your own opinion.

Next up is Journal, who hail from Sacramento, California. Their latest, Unlorja, is an 80- minute magnum opus of math metal, prog elements, and SURPRISE! Lots of inspiration from video games! Yes, it's another in the awesomely growing trend of combining games and metal! However, at first, it doesn't look as if there is a connection.

At first, the band sounds comfortable enough touring with Between The Buried and Me and maybe even being signed to Sumerian records. The schizophrenic pace just keeps you guessing. Then you get a 2-minute interlude of beautiful music. If they're channeling gaming, then I'd say the interludes are inspired by mid 90's Enix Super NES games. I swear a few of them could be tossed into Actraiser or Soulblazer and they would totally fit.

Here's hoping Journal gets a nice record deal in the near future. Their sound is ready for some good production, and with some decent tour support, they could make a name for themselves. I highly suggest you visit their Bandcamp page, give their songs a once-through, and cough up a few bucks for Unjorla.

And just in case you guys are reading this: TOUR MICHIGAN!!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

8-Bit Metal Mondays: For a Friend

I was the bearer of some sad news yesterday. I learned that a friend and former employee of mine, Jennifer, had passed away several weeks earlier. Jen was a diabetic that loved to party. It was something that we were always concerned about, especially when her medication didn't seem like it was coming from just one doctor. She swore up and down that it was all legally prescribed, but soon there were gaping holes in her story, no thanks to her many hospital visits to clean her system out. Eventually she disappeared from her work and family, and got hooked on heroin in that time frame. By that point, it was just a ticking clock.

One thing that I'll always remember Jen for was her insistence that I bring in my copy of Stone Sour's Come What(ever) May so she could listen to Through Glass on repeat. She was no where near a metalhead, but Stone Sour was the closest she was ever going to get. Me, being a total sap, usually fulfilled her request. Hey, if it made her happy, then so be it. In the end, we got along great. Jen was a hard worker and a great jokester, but she just couldn't keep her demons under control.

So, for one last time, with no bleeps, here's Through Glass. Rest in peace, kiddo.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

DJ's All Time Favorites: Prince of Persia Sands of Time

I finally got this done, but it probably would have taken longer had I not been ill. I guess being sick at home has its share of benefits too.

The second game in my series is none other than Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. It is best known as the first Prince of Persia title to be developed by Ubisoft, the first 3D game in the franchise (to say nothing of the unspeakably awful Prince of Persia 3D), and also one of the best games to come out on the last generation of consoles. Unfortunately, it is also the last Prince game to have the full attention of series creator Jordan Mechner, who subsequently went off to produce the recently released Prince of Persia movie. Comparatively speaking, Mechner is to PoP what Miyamoto is to Super Mario and Legend of Zelda, and arguably every Prince of Persia title since Sands has taken a turn for the worse in one way or another as a result of his absence. While the gameplay in the post-Sands releases may have been improved upon in some aspects, they also have more bugs than an ant farm, in addition to being plagued with art and design decisions that only a meathead could love. Warrior Within almost completely obliterated the good will I had towards the series after playing Sands. Two Thrones suffered from similar problems, albeit to a much lesser extent. The 2008 Prince game had a gorgeous cel-shaded aesthetic and was a good return to form in some ways, but it felt very automated and took a good chunk of the controls away from the player.

I love this game because it knows exactly what it is, and doesn't try to be something it's not. I feel that's the perennial mistake that Ubisoft have made with every post-Sands release. In Sands of Time, there's no "goth bitches", no blood, no guts, no out of place dialog, and no Nolan North. All you will find here is a brisk and exhilarating platformer adorned with a beautiful Arabian Nights backdrop (an anomaly in our currently anti-Middle Eastern climate), simple yet well done storytelling, and a funny, witty protagonist. It even brings Disney's version of Aladdin to mind in some respects.

As far as the game itself goes, it's very well designed. There's a reason why I've been playing this game religiously for the past 3 years or so. Like Sonic, there is an apparent emphasis on rhythm and flow as you progress through the game. In any of the earlier Sonic the Hedgehog games, the speed was contingent on how well you memorized enemy placements, chasms, and traps. If you messed up, the game would bring you to an abrupt halt, and you would have to pick up speed all over again. The same principles apply here, whereas if you can maintain momentum, plowing through the levels can be a blast. However, unlike Sonic, there's still plenty of fun to be had even if you can't flip and wall run across the levels in one extended blast of parkour. A point of contention for many is the combat system, which can be repetitive. Overall, I never had a huge problem with it. It's fast, fluid, and makes adequate use of the Prince's gymnastic capabilities.

The premise found in Sands is relatively basic compared to the more complex storylines gamers are now accustomed to. In summary, the Prince steals the Dagger of Time and is tricked by the Vizier into opening the hourglass with it, thereby turning the entire kingdom into monsters. He falls in love with a princess along the way too, as he rushes to undo his mistake by returning the sands he collects from the monsters to the hourglass. There are very few cut scenes in the game, and the dialog is brought to you through back and forth banter between the Prince and Farah as they explore the palace of Azad. Albeit unintelligible at times, the writing is entertaining and occasionally clever.

The Prince is voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, a British actor whose accent provides an appropriately royal air to the character. Apparently, he did so well with the Prince, people can't imagine anybody else taking up the role, myself included. I think Tobey MacGuire and Spiderman should provide a good analogy to what I'm saying here. The soundtrack retains it's Middle Eastern roots, lightly incorporating elements of hard rock into the mix. Best of all, Godsmack is nowhere to be found here.

This game provides sufficient evidence that Ubisoft can be a great developer when they really want to be. They may not always have their hearts in the right place, but they have some undeniably talented individuals under their roof. At times it's hard for me to fathom that the same people who gave us this and Rayman 2, also continue to shamelessly peddle half-hearted, buggy, and in many cases, truly awful software that shall remain unnamed.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Game Footage That Made Me Shit Bricks

I have a terrible fear of non-walled height. I can go up to the top floor of a building and feel confident that the thing won't crash down around me, bar an attack from Godzilla or Gamera or Rush Limbaugh. Dino lasers and right-wing bullshit can pretty much topple all. However, put me on a roof without any lovely concrete walls around me and the fear of falling from there hits me like a bullet to the temple. Then you'll see me, running back to the stairwell door, screaming like a little bitch. In other words, the outside world sucks, and the power for it to suck more increases the higher you go. Trust me, that shit's exponential.

That's what makes this footage of Dead Space 2 so damn horrifying to me. No monsters, no dead bodies, no bloodied makeshift temples. Just you, a big jump downwards, and large amounts of crap in your way. Oh, and you're gonna crash. I don't care if this is space, that shit's gotta smart.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Upping the game library: the Gamestop adventure

(Not my gaming library, but one can dream.)

First off, I must apologize for the lack of posts from myself these past couple weeks. It's been a bit of a rough little bit here in Michiganland. Going to Warped Tour and Mayhemfest earlier this month was a blast, but it brought with it an erratic sleep schedule and even crazier work schedule. Combine the two, and something was bound to break. In the end, it was I who broke, and it resulted in some wicked insomnia. Barely getting any sleep at night to nearly napping standing up at work is something I recommend you avoid at all costs.

Plus, it's also Cruise week here in Metro Detroit. For the uninitiated, the Cruise is a yearly thing where all the douchebags bring out their douchey cars and douchily drive them on Woodward all week long. It's like the Jersey Shore to infinity, and Snookis abound. Seriously, you can drop in anywhere on the strip and meet a handful of egotistical 22-year old super femmy drunks with way too much self esteem. Plus, since the store I work at is also on the strip, I get to "enjoy" this love for several weeks. It all ends on Saturday night, but that journey sure does suck.

Add to all of that a $300 bill for new eyeglass, and you can just see the unrelenting joy I've been going through.

So, all this combined forced me to slash through all my concert dates coming up so I can get my head back into a normal place to sleep, and get those damn glasses so my money can even out again. On the flipside, my gaming budget wasn't affected too much, so I had the chance to pay some stuff off and even reserve some of the biggie stuff popping up. So, here's the rundown:

Monday, August 16, 2010

8-Bit Metal Mondays: The Ordeals Of The Real World

So, Slayer and Megadeth are scheduled to hit town later this week. It'll be awesome! It'll be extraordinary! It'll also be with out me. A lack of available press tickets is a big culprit. The real whammy though, is that I am in sudden need of new glasses. I always put off a visit to the optometrist, not because of any doctor fears ( but I do hate those rear retina tests that leave you pseudo blind for at least two hours), but because of bill fears. Sure as shit, I gotta cough up $300 for a new pair thanks to my uber strong prescription and lack of feasible health insurance. Thus, no ticket buying. In the end, fattie's gotta see, right?

So, in mourning of my concert loss, I did a bunch of pre-ordering at the local Gamestop, which I think I'll write up later today. Also, Metroid: Other M is dropping in a couple weeks, so for this week's bleepiness, we're gonna head back into the world of Metroid Metal! How about the Kraid theme? Now, if you excuse me, I'm gonna enjoy a good part of my day off work by eating some Rally's and watching Avatar for the first time. Yes, I was the one guy who didn't see it, alright? Quit teasing!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

DJ's All Time Favorites: Tales of Symphonia

Outside of a few tepidly received PS1 installments, the Tales series has seen very minimal exposure in the West prior to Symphonia. The first game in the franchise, Tales of Phantasia for SNES, was originally scheduled to be published outside of Japan by Nintendo. However, these plans were later abandoned as they shifted their focus towards the impending N64, thus leaving it stranded in Japan. Namco distributed the majority of its subsequent releases worldwide, probably in the hopes of cashing in on the success of Final Fantasy 7. But it wasn't until this game, codenamed Tales of Phantasia upon its announcement, that it gained recognition. No matter what the circumstances were that led to its success (ex: the RPG starved Gamecube market), Namco had a good thing going with the Tales franchise, until their recent arrogance and mishandling of the franchise diminished its relevance considerably. In Japan, they regularly pump out new games of varying quality to the point that their Japanese fanbase no longer gives a shit, as they continue to spit on Western audiences foaming at the mouth for a new installment in their unique spin on the RPG formula.

At any rate, Tales of Symphonia holds an important place in my gaming history. It was for all intents and purposes my gateway drug into JRPGs, a genre that I had very little interest in prior to playing it. Tales of Symphonia incorporated a fast paced, real time battle system without straying from most of the other common aspects found in JRPGs. It provided just about everything I liked about regular RPGs while eschewing random, turn based battles, which I saw as tedious. It was thanks to this game that I was more willing to explore further and actually gain an appreciation for typical turn based battle systems. Dragon Quest 8 remains a favorite, even to this day.The games graphics employed a cel-shading technique, giving the game a smooth, pronounced anime presentation. It also has about 3 or 4 full blown anime cut-scenes throughout the game (including the intro and ending), which are fun while they last, although they should have added more. It's also a shame that they didn't incorporate nearly as much of an effort into the overworld, which is painfully stripped down relative to the towns and dungeons. However, it's still a relatively minor nuisance in comparison to everything the game gets right.

The story is very well written, drawing heavily from Norse mythology and earlier RPG storylines (especially Secret of Mana), despite being plagued with nearly every anime cliche you can think of. The last part isn't an exaggeration either, as you've got the brash, hot headed protagonist (Lloyd), the sarcastic, intelligent for his age youngling (Genis), the unrealistically humble and selfless female protagonist (Colette), the effeminate womanizer (Zelos), the morose warrior with a mysterious past (Kratos), the short tempered tomboy (Sheena), and the list goes on and on. The characters are likeable for the most part, and out of the 9 lead characters, only Raine and Colette seem to get on my nerves on a consistent basis. Colette is completely spineless and apologizes way too much, to the point that I cringe and cover my ears (I'm not joking) every time I hear her say "I'm sorry". I was literally relieved when she lost her voice at one point in the game. As for Raine, she comes off as being really bitchy, often hitting the other characters for very dumb reasons. However, she evens out considerably by the time you reach the second disc, and her personality is much more palatable.

It starts out as a quest for world regeneration, but gradually becomes something more grand and intricate as time goes on. Without spoiling anything, the games primary antagonists are a terrorist group called the Desians, who bear many resemblances and similarities to the Nazi Party/Third Reich. They engage in many cruel acts, treating humans as cattle (supposedly as revenge for discrimination they once faced) and forcing them to work as slaves in what they call "human ranches" (labor camps, essentially). Coming from a partially Jewish family, this is a pretty big sore spot for yours truly. In turn, this makes shedding Desian blood to the point of being completely wiped out (they do become extinct by the end of the game) very satisfying.

On a final note, the voice acting is superb, which is an anomaly in JRPGs. Best of all, they got Scott freaking Menville (aka Robin from Teen Titans) to play Lloyd Irving, the main character. It's hard not to imagine Lloyd shouting "Titans, go!" every time they enter a battle. Menville does a great job with Lloyd, and you can hear the sheer emotion dripping from every line he utters throughout the game.

The next game in my series will be....I don't know yet. I'll have to think about that.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fear Campaign A Political Success; The Riff Concert Review

Fear Factory, 36 Crazyfists, After The Burial & Divine Heresy @ Harpo's July 22, 2010

Ugh, I just never learn properly.

You see, Harpo's has this thing against air conditioning. In other words, they just don't have any. Oh sure, they have a few industrial size fans there, but all they do is blow warm stale hopps flavored air into your face. It may cool you down for a minute, but it might make you drunk too. And considering the previous show I went to I was in much need of hydration, I'd remember to bring some pocket change to get some water, right? HA! Me, remember something important like my own health? Who do you think this is, Jenny Craig?

As such, my lack of proper liquification has made the night's events a little hazy. God damn. This is one of the few times I wish I was a heavy drinker. Then I can blame my ineptitude on my over-consumption of Long Island Iced Teas and one accidental Fuzzy Nipple purchase. But no, lack of H20 it is.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

LCTR- tour blog- VANS RULE

No independent metal tour would be complete without van problems, and that's just what LCTR ran into a couple days ago. It forced a cancellation in SC and brought on a lot of lounging with our friends Leah & Sarah in DC. Thank the patron saint of metal for those gals, they always provide us with some much needed luxury whenever we pass through their area.

With time to kill, Chris and BP were busy catching up on some Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2... for about 48 hours straight. I'm not a huge Call of Duty guy, but any game that can give a couple dudes such a bad case of 'gamer eye' that they can barely see the beer in front of them has to have something going for it.

In the meantime I was checking out a hard-as-nails little indie game called Tower of Heaven.

It's a pretty simple platformer that keeps adding little rules (like the one seen above) to make the levels increasingly difficult. Good fun, if you don't mind a bit of frustration in your gaming.

After paying exuberant money to fix a piece of the steering column that looks like it's worth about 75 cents we were back in action, and ready for more long driving hours.

Last night we got to Nashville TN and got to hang out with some of our good buds Skeet and Barry from Look What I Did, who just got off tour a few days ago. It's been a long time since we've seen these dudes and we'll likely be chilling with them the next couple days as we've got two TN shows in a row: Tonight we hit The Coup in Clarksvile TN, and tomorrow we rock The Muse in Nashville. Come check it out if you can!

Powerglove's Saturday Morning Apocalypse: The Very Early Riff Review

You gotta love having a website sometimes.

So, the guys who run E1 Music let a few people get early dibs on the next Powerglove cd, Saturday Morning Apocalypse, due out on September 28th, 2010. The record is so early in it's birth, that we don't even have cover art to show you yet. However, what we do have are 11 tracks of early childhood cartoon goodness.

Monday, August 9, 2010

8-Bit Metal Mondays: Wow, it is getting loud. Am I getting old?

Whoa boy, have the past few weeks been clogged up for me. Three big tours came rolling through recently (Fear Factory, Warped, and Mayhem) and like the diligent metalhead I am, I attended all three. Finally having a week with a legit day off today, I'm reflecting upon the activities I partook in, and one crashing realization is setting in hard: I'm nowhere near as young as I once was. After an all day show like Warped, my feet are pretty much non-existent by 8PM. I'm tired and in need of an emergency king-size bed. That's not to say I didn't have fun, which I truly did! just have to accept the fact that age is setting in pretty damn hard.

For this week' s bit of bleepy goodness, it's Rob Zombie from Mayhem Festival and old svhool Thunder Kiss '65. Speaking of all those tours, be expecting reviews and a shitton of pics in the near future. I also got to chat with Wednesday 13 of the Murderdolls at Mayhemfest, so be on the lookout for that.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blast Beats and Boss Battles w/ Daath's Sean Z!

(Well, butter my buns and call me a biscuit, it's another edition of Blast Beats and Boss Battles! Today's unfortunate victim is Daath vocalist Sean Z! Read on to hear him expound on Xbox modding, not being able to boot up Starcraft, and his affinity for vaporizers.)

1. How did you come by the Daath lead singing gig?

Screaming forever and ever! And knowing Eyal forever too.  
2. Was it hard to adjust with the band when you joined up?

Yes and no.   The practice regiment wasn't what I was used to, and I also had to get better as a frontman as well.  Better than I was and quick.  I had been in a local band practicing every night playing local shows, so when the opp arose it seemed all the practice was finally not going unheard.

LCTR talks guitar hero on Noisecreep

Noisecreep just posted a bit of an interview I did with them awhile ago. We just talk about guitar hero's impact on musicians and the music industry. It's a quick read, check it out here:

Monday, August 2, 2010

LCTR- tour blog 5

Last night we had a blast at the Fallout Shelter in Aliquippa PA. The place is a tiny bar under a bowling alley that just oozes metal-nerd personality. The armor-clad Dethlehem started the night with metal that flew by the wings of dragons- and kicked some serious ass at it. Iron Thrones rocked it as usual, those guys somehow seem to get better every night. I was somewhat worried that our set would start a riot of sci-fi vs fantasy, but all was well and everyone seemed to have a good time during our set as well.

Later on we treated ourselves to some Namco classics in the van. Galaga should be public domain- am I right?

Tonight we're playing an absolutely stacked bill in Brooklyn with East of the Wall, The Binary Code, Name, Meek is Murder and Iron Thrones. Come on out if you can- it should be amazing!

8-Bit Metal Mondays: What the best Mudvayne album was

Sitting here, thinking about which Mudvayne album was most superior, I realized that the early ones have some major holes in them. I think their second cd, The End of Things To Come,is their best musically, but some of the tracks seem real out of place. The same with LD 50, their first cd. That was their hardest effort, but some songs on there really don't belong either. So, I'd say the best Mudvayne effort would be a combination of cd's one and two. Damn shame that they go bit by the money bug for their third cd, as they were really turning into a very experimental progressive band that could do respectable numbers. Mudvayne's later cd's aren't all that bad, but just can't hold a candle to their earlier days.

In keeping with their early days, here's the bleepy version that put Mudvayne on the map, Dig.