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A Flickering (England)

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Aguirre, Wrath Of God [DVD] [1972]
Aguirre, Wrath Of God [DVD] [1972]
Dvd ~ Klaus Kinski
Offered by pokerbooks
Price: £14.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am the wrath of God, 24 Mar. 2008
To gauge the futility of this most feral, indomitable human spirit in the face of nature as disease, death, the infinite - to gauge this is to confront Kant's sublime in all its sickening power. Never has a sense of nature's beautiful supremacy been more potent; Aguirre's hopeless, relentless descent into the heart of its exotic darkness inspires belittling horror, but the one thing we fear more than this darkness is the idea of turning away from its seductive, hypnotic majesty.


No Country For Old Men [DVD]
No Country For Old Men [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tommy Lee Jones
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £2.90

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I got here the same way the coin did, 24 Mar. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: No Country For Old Men [DVD] (DVD)
This inevitably perfect marriage between Cormac McCarthy and the Coens manifests itself as the final elegy to God, confirming his loss of utility by extracting its own brutal divinity from nature's lawless chaos. Post-"Seventh Seal", it's a sparse masterpiece in absurdism which articulates the insignificance of our conceits, the astonishing, humbling power of our barren cosmos. It's a sea of troubles against which we can't, needn't take arms but merely stand in awe. And it might even be perfect.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 31, 2008 5:17 PM BST


Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen)
Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen)
by Steven Erikson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spoiler-free review of the whole set, 3 Sept. 2007
Steven Erikson's Malazan series is almost certainly the most powerful and original work of epic fantasy in decades. In savage contrast with modern society, Erikson's meticulously detailed and authentic, brutal world is infused so intensely with meaning that it seeps like blood from every shared gaze, every blade of grass, every act; it seeps from the pages right into the reader's heart. When we come to this chaotic world and its characters, we aren't reading a plot beginning to end so much as sampling a tiny segment of a mammoth, intricate history, most of which Erikson - an archaeologist - no doubt has mapped out in his head. This unrivalled scope makes the work's meaningful nature all the more authentic - everything seems to matter so much more in these novels. There is power in every small gesture, enigmatic forces emanate from the flesh and sinews of the natural world, echoes of past tragedies still cry out like ghosts upon God-bidden gales, the bony hands of old stories hold up every road. The result is a Romantic setting in which tragedy and suffering take on a whole new depth, as do pathos, glory, joy and even humour. Not only does the author have a Homeric mastery of tragedy, but he wraps comedy around it with Shakespearean skill, serving beautifully as counterpoint and companion both. Not since Leiber, I suspect, has fantasy had an equal to this man's sense of humour.

In this setting resides hundreds of diverse, fascinating characters, races and cultures. Be they Gods or soldiers or assassins or scientists or merchants, every individual has complex histories and horrendous burdens written across his/her weathered mein. Each begins as a mystery, a potentiality within which power and wisdom, values and dreams, flaws and weaknesses, flicker elusively and gradually emerge as each adds his/her own layer to the already labyrinthine saga, often with earth-shaking consequences. Whilst a normal author would get lost in all his simultaneous mini-plots, Erikson has such a grasp upon the logistics of his world that he interweaves its various happenings mellifluously, and ensures that the central thrust of the story is so over-arching, momentous and damned epic that it hangs like a shadow over even the most insignificant paragraphs, just as it does over the world itself.

Just about every existential theme you could care to name is explored in great depth by these largely sympathetic characters, monologues of intelligent thought accompany each action, and so we have a drama that not only surpasses most others in scope, imagination, tragedy and comedy, but also rivals the best in its insight and power to change a reader's mindset. Stephen Donaldson himself, arguably the king of epic fantasy surely ahead of Tolkien, has stated as much in his lavish praise of Erikson's work. A theme repeatedly considered is the life and mentality of a soldier; Erikson is clearly influenced by Glen Cook's "The Black Company", which whilst far more light-hearted and simplistic brought more grit to fantasy than anyone before, and focused on a gang of mercenaries not unlike certain Malazan soldiers. Cook, incidentally, is another to throw superlatives in Erikson's direction, admitting "The Black Company, Zelazny's Amber, Vance's Dying Earth, and other mighty drumbeats are but foreshadowings of this dark dragon's hoard."

Now, Erikson certainly does have what could be conceived as flaws - he's not perfect. For starters, a common criticism is that his books are very difficult to follow. I largely disagree; as implied earlier I feel his many simultaneous plots are balanced and interwoven with enough care and diversity to possess a clear definition, and thus not confuse. However, these certainly aren't books you can pick up and read once a fortnight - if this is how you read, this perhaps isn't the series for you. In terms of style, Erikson occasionally makes his descriptions almost too vivid, sometimes a more refined approach would be more effective. Still, his work is so ambiguous in other ways that I can easily let that slide. There are also a few quotes which remind rather too strongly of comic books or movies, I could almost imagine hearing them as voice-overs in Sin City. Not a huge problem, but it doesn't always fit, somehow. Both of these flaws occur less as the series progresses and the author matures. He also has a habit of repeating the odd word, befitting the story and style but nontheless noticeable - in particular "shrugged" and "grunted" are too common. Fortunately, these issues are belittled by the scale, imagination, emotion and sheer evocative power of this endeavor.

To summarize for the impatient; if you like your fantasy ridiculously epic, as well as both poetic and gritty, mysterious and dramatic, tragic and hilarious, original, beautiful and above all meaningful, put "Gardens of the Moon" right at the top of your wish list. It's the first, the weakest and the most difficult to follow, so if you like it, you'll love the next few, and if you love it, then you're in for an absolutely massive treat.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 3, 2010 1:57 PM BST


Far Away From the Sun
Far Away From the Sun

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eternal, 25 July 2006
This review is from: Far Away From the Sun (Audio CD)
Few years were better for black metal than 1996. Ildjarn and Falkenbach both arguably reached their creative peaks, and quality albums emerged from such bands as I Shalt Become, Blut Aus Nord, Avzhia and Nokturnal Mortum. Varg, too, nearly tapped into his best form with the mist-cloaked "Filosofem". As if this wasn't enough, Summoning's "Dol Guldur" was also released, still hailed almost uniformly as a triumphant masterpiece ten years after its conception. If black metal was baking, '96 would already have been a veritable feast. With that in mind, it's very easy to believe that Sacramentum set out unscrupulously with the sole intention of spoiling us. A work of unflinching hope and beauty, "Far Away From The Sun" is the crowning cherry, the work before which all previously mentioned albums must simply kneel and admire.

Sacramentum's debut full length is an ambiguous, dense piece, full of subtlety. Very little sticks out at first, and the few parts which do initially grab one's attention end up being the least interesting and long-lasting (see parts of track 3). The perfect, glossy production allows everything to wash together effortlessly into a meditative ambience, a hypnotic dream, causing time to virtually cease existing during a focused listen. Indeed, the album is centred around fantastical journeys across mystical landscapes, out of time, out of consciousness, dreams and memories and ideals, paradoxically shown to be ways by which reality acquires it meaning. Sacramentum allow that which is usually beyond consciousness to infiltrate it; they bridge that great gap, and the result is truly inspiring. Their dreams resonate with passion and wonder, expanding the limits of the world and uncovering all of its majesty. One can't help but fearlessly embrace all being when presented with such freedom of mind, such possibility.

Sacramentum express an almost childlike joyfulness, upliftingly light in the purest of senses, despite conjuring images of the sun's absence or impending absence. Celestial harmonies surge and glide like shooting stars across the night sky, blending into one another as if colours in an especially beautiful sunset. Throaty growls float over the top like the moon's reflection upon nightly seas. Such tranquil images are undeniable despite the frantic drumming, growls and soaring guitars - a twinkling light is shone upon everything that was once dark with such peaceful appreciation and delight that it's impossible not to be swept away by the band's vision.

Voicing themes of the eternal, and yet acutely aware of not only the future's endless possibilities but the inspiration for the future provided by the past, Sacramentum play with time as if it were built around their rhythm. FAFTS is in fact at its most powerful when nostalgia and hope are merged into the present as one. The emotion becomes almost palpable in tracks 5 and 6 where this theme most clearly occurs; infectious and moving beyond words. "A voice from the past will follow me until the day I die." Looking back to best move forward, light in darkness, dreams in reality, tranquillity in chaos, so many of life's most profound paradoxes, all beautified with flowing ease. This is the underlying power of "Far Away From The Sun" - each and every complicated and troublesome aspect of the world is made so simple, and so beautiful, that all fear drifts away, all discomfort is forgotten, and all that remains is the tranquil contentment of having fully opened one's mind to the wonder of life in all its guises.


The Darkness That Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing Book 1)
The Darkness That Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing Book 1)
by R. Scott Bakker
Edition: Paperback

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very promising indeed!, 21 July 2006
Another philosophically-inclined fantasy writer hits success with his debut series, albeit without becoming *that* gripping until part four. The instantly intriguing prologue drew me in, as well as the unusual environment, rich in power struggles between different theological sects. The down-to-Earth yet modestly wise Achamian, whom we mostly follow in part 1, is a likeable enough character too; easy to empathise with. I stayed, however, for the two most fascinating and three-dimensional characters of the story, Kellhus and C'naiur, both of whom become central as the book really picks up the pace around the 400 page mark. It was from that point onwards that I really felt the reward of sticking with this book. This certainly doesn't (yet, at least) possess the scale of history, tragedy, insight and mystery I've come to expect of Erikson, nor the tangible beauty and over-arching metaphor of Donaldson, but it possesses its own charms in its unique and somewhat surreal setting, the previously mentioned fascinating characters, the web of intrigue, the undercurrents of greater powers implying things aren't at all what they seem, and the book's focus on the idea of "the darkness that comes before" (I'll let you read to find out more). Best of all though, is that this series has the potential to get so much better in the second book - this feels like a warm up. I eagerly await my copy.


H. P. Lovecraft Omnibus 1: At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels of Terror
H. P. Lovecraft Omnibus 1: At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels of Terror
by H. P. Lovecraft
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £10.99

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The master..., 2 Mar. 2006
This collection, the first of three volumes, may well represent the pinnacle of Lovecraft's creative genius. His knack for conjuring the most horrific and fantastical of atmospheres is unparalleled; these stories will have you shuddering with captivated horror at the incredible otherworldly landscapes and monstrosities leaping from their pages.
Plagued with a great sensitivity to cold from a young age, Lovecraft's first novel "At the Mountains of Madness" was perhaps a little closer to home than any other piece he attempted, and its sublime execution would perhaps imply this further. Regardless, this tale is arguably the greatest of the man's catalogue, with a gradual, drawn-out build up of tension and isolation into a frantic climax in a world so alien, beautiful and deadly. Reading this made me long to live in a world where such places as Antarctica still existed unexplored and mysterious, potentially housing that which men of the time could barely dream of. One loses oneself in those icy peaks, those ancient ruins, and yet one always feels as if they are not quite alone...
"The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" is next in line, and one can't help but feel sceptical as to how this piece will fare up against the previous mountain of a story. Don't let the slow start sway you - this one's darn great too! As with "Mountains...", Lovecraft creates an ominous atmosphere this time via gradual exploration of Curwen and Charles' dark discoveries, once again motivated by wild curiosity. Yet in this piece something far more disturbing and horrific lurks, implied constantly in Lovecraft's subtle narrative. Less beautiful, fantastical and isolating perhaps, but all the more human and realistic and TERRIFYING as a result. There is a scene involving darkness and a pit (not going into detail here for fear of spoiling it) which will stay with you for a damn long time - a claustrophobic nightmare.
Next in line comes a little break from the longer novels, with what I consider to be the least absorbing story in the volume, "The Dreams in the Witch-House". It's pretty telling that I can't remember much about this whereas I remember the previous two vividly. I recall being somewhat intrigued with the combination of mathematics, folklore, multi-dimensions and the like, but the main plot isn't all that gripping. Worth reading, nontheless.
The following four stories all focus upon a character named Randolph Carter - a man whose personality is founded upon a pursuit of the beauty found in dreams. It has frequently been said that this character is most representative of Lovecraft himself, and I must admit feeling great empathy towards him in "The Silver Key", a short prequel to "Through the Gates of the Silver Key", which can easily be read as a commentary on a dry and absurd society - as relevant now as it was then.
The best of these tales is perhaps "The Dream-Quest of the Unknown Kadath", which whilst seemingly having less focus and direction than his other two novels, is just filled to the brim with wonderous landscape after wonderous landscape packed full of creatures both stunning and diabolical. Carter's quest for the paradise city of his dreams is bizarre, yet wholly enticing. The previously mentioned "Through the Gates of the Silver Key" is also very atmospheric, though not a journey - this shorter story involves Carter's gradual venture into the realms of beings of chaos which dwarf humankind, and reveals much about the workings of the dream-world Lovecraft has created.
Lovecraft has created a mythos, from terrible beasts and Gods to ancient old writings and lands, which renders his readers both fascinated and ultimately insignificant in comparison. Treat yourselves folks, this is dark, atmospheric literature done properly. 5 stars don't do it justice.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 7, 2009 11:01 AM BST


Changes
Changes

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hellish and enormous, 1 Mar. 2006
This review is from: Changes (Audio CD)
A huge beast lurks among the shadows of an ancient temple, yearning for blood and destruction. Its minions stand in a circle, surrounding a flame of pestilence. One by one, they sacrifice themselves, sacrifice their blood for their master. The monstrosity emerges, and its true, gargantuan size is made known, yet it is still only shadow. All cower in fear. It will devastate all in its path. It won't stop until the last spot of life is bloodily slaughtered upon its horns. This is "Changes" by Miasma.
It's very rare that the drum-production on a brutal death metal album is, well, thin, and not at all powerful. Then again, I suppose it defeats the genre's usual aims; be as heavy, unsubtle and meaningless as an elephant headbutting a tree. This is the first of many indications that Miasma have bags more sophistication than that though; indeed, I imagine they hate stuttery belching bands almost as much as I do. What we have here is drums that are rather tinny. Sure, they're perhaps a little bit too tinny at times, I empathise with those who think so, but this simply isn't the kind of album that wants or needs powerful drum production. This is all about atmosphere, this is all about mightyness in composition, not in aesthetic.
One slow, chugging, doomy passage after another is laid down between bursts of frantic drumming and riffs that lick fire across the mind, all accompanied by low and demonic vocals. Want to be a death metal vocalist? Listen to this guy. The blood of occult ritual oozes from the unstable-sounding Swedish-styled melodies; balefulness incarnate. The ideas "collapse upon one another seemlessly", like the previous reviewer stated, inside narrative frameworks that tend to start off ominous and then build into malevolence, providing me with a strong portrayal of the concept I wrote in the first paragraph. Ever wondered what Therion would've been like in their early days if they'd conjured up their music with Slayer in hell itself? So have Miasma.
There's the odd nasty bit of organ work (wtf is the intro to Schizophrenia supposed to be? Please Miasma, don't ever try to Gospelise Beethoven's 5th again, particularly not as an intro to the best song on your album), though its generally tastefully integrated into the music. There's the odd bit of acoustic guitar to be found as well, but there's certainly no problems with that. The tinny drum-production I mentioned seems to annoy some people. These are the only faults.
Disregarding these imperfections which, frankly, are hardly worth mentioning, this is complex and dark death metal that's conceptually excellent and that possesses atmosphere in abundance. It can stand among virtually any genius death metal albums you could care to name, without feeling out of place. If you like "Beyond Sanctorum" and you like early Slayer, you'll like this, so go get it.


Descend Into the Absurd
Descend Into the Absurd

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arguably the finest German DM album ever, 1 Mar. 2006
This review is from: Descend Into the Absurd (Audio CD)
As we entered 1992, the year in which death metal peaked in terms of sheer quantity of quality recordings, an unforgiving cloud formed over southern Germany. Ghouls gathered, preparing to sweep across the land and coat it in death and in chaos. For not only were Atrocity creating their marvellous progressive opus “Longing for Death”; Fleshcrawl were writing this glorious and savage tribute to the soulless.
Fleshcrawl tread the road of doomy death metal upon which the likes of Autopsy and Darkthrone explored in years previous, but rather than tentatively edging forward like a blind man on a diving board (that’s not to say the previously mentioned bands can be described as such ;)), they plunge headlong into the unknown with a slab of unnervingly calculated detachment from life and embracement of feral meaninglessness.
The album begins in a heavily ironic fashion; a drum heartbeat pulsing life through a windswept background. Tension gradually grows and, as is the case throughout the album, releases with unfaltering apathy. A melody swirls down the now quick ambience-inducing mechanism of the drums into deconstruction, rolls forebodingly, obdurately and deliberately along a deadened, barren path of prolonged dissonant chords that begin to chug, then resurfaces back into chaos. The album continues this way, relentlessly, without compromise or warmth.
Leadwork is scrawled with delicious emptiness in places, and hits a focused whirl in others. Drums are hollow and cold, and used very effectively whether in doomy passages, blasting sections or accompanying a mid-paced chug. The growls are, well… they’re bloody awesome. The guitar tone is quite sludgy and ‘heavy’ enough to rip off your bollocks. The melodies themselves are fairly Swedish in style, though I find the album is most comparable to non-Swedish releases such as “Slumber of Sullen Eyes” and “Soulside Journey” (more advanced and powerful than both imo, which should tell you just how highly I rate this).
One of the best three DM albums from Germany, along with Atrocity's “Longing For Death” and Golem’s “Eternity: The Weeping Horizons”. Acquire or expire!


My Shadow
My Shadow

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't dismiss this one, 1 Mar. 2006
This review is from: My Shadow (Audio CD)
Bah, I'd like to be quite brief here. This wolf in sheep's clothing was always going to be ignored by most due to it being melodic death from Gothenburg, and I was no exception, thus I was surprised indeed to find that this is actually a fine release.
Decameron, formerly known as Nekrofobic (mmm...), clearly take influences from Swedish bands like Eucharist, At the Gates and Necrophobic, and while they're a bit more streamlined than any of those bands at their respective peaks, they're still a few notches above most from that scene. There's also an Arghoslent vibe in places.
Decameron are quite technical, they're rich in harmony and texture, there's quite a lot of rhythm-changes but it's mainly well-composed and purposeful. The melodies are folky in places, thrashy in others, occasionally on the cheesier Gothenburg side of things, but generally very good. Narrative in structure, the songs are mainly in between 5 and 8 minutes, and most conjure a sense of epic which the great majority of melo-death bands are entirely devoid of. Drumming is adequately technical but not too special, and the lyrics couldn't be any more typical. I've never been good at describing vocals, but these are in between Eucharist's growls and Lindberg's shrieks, methinks.
There are a few poor parts; clean-vocalled passages that really wouldn't sound out of place on a Soilwork album, for example. There's also times when Decameron are so clearly copying Eucharist it's ridiculous to my ears. This is hardly a groundbreaking recording. It stands head-and-shoulders above the current crop of rubbish coming from melo-death, though, and is definitely worth purchasing.


Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan
Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan
Price: £15.45

4.0 out of 5 stars Nihil Chaos, 1 Mar. 2006
Antaeus are one of those bands that have a love-hate relationship with the underground scene. Dismissed as boring and monotonous by some, hailed as masters by others, they seem to be the Deeds of Flesh of BM. And, not unlike DoF, they appear to have at least one very good album under their belt.
Let's get the sole negative out of the way right now - the drum production. Overly trebly and/or overly prominent; it's a little harsh to these ears. This is a shame, as the drumming provides a militant relentlessness which drives the album all the way to the abyss without mercy.
Warped, purposeful melodies wash over the battering ram that is the drums, with fairly typical Abbath-esque shroaks (that's right, shroaks) over the top. Simple really, but aren't all the great BM bands? Compositionally this is excellent, the direction is obviously fully-formulated and followed purposefully and coherently. This chaotic war machine certainly draws Averse Sefira comparisons in its nature, being derived somewhat from Immortal, but it replaces all of that band's calculated and mechanical warlike glory with a more frantic, swirling, violent whirlpool of nihilism, sucking you in on a more primal level.
Antaeus rebel against the occultist, cheaply-produced metal of their rivals the FBL, and I daresay I enjoy this more than anything from that scene. Cut your flesh and worship Satan. No don't, just buy it.


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