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The Candlelight Years
The Candlelight Years
Price: £13.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Classic progressive death metal - all in one neat package!, 5 April 2012
This review is from: The Candlelight Years (Audio CD)
Obviously, if you already own these albums, don't buy this set. However if you don't own these albums don't even think twice, get them! Opeth stand as one of the best metal bands of all time and their first three albums (Orchid, Morningrise, My Arms Your Hearse) gathered in this set offers a fascinating look at their early years. They pretty much are becoming metal classics.
Orchid (9/10) is one of the most explosive metal debut albums of all time, as the group sound so fully formed and their style so recognisable right from the start. I love this album, there's just something about the production and the songs that just really clicks with me. Morningrise (8/10) is a great follow up record, with some truly haunting songs (Advent, The Night & The Silent Water) and more mellow acoustic sections than the first album. It doesn't quite match the debut album for me, but still has its own charms and intricacies. And finally, My Arms Your Hearse (10/10), a concept album, is excellent. Arguably, here Opeth completely find themselves, with less acoustic sections, but a wider variety of genre types (including jazz fusion!) this one is a really heavy harrowing album. It also includes concert staple Demon of The Fall!
So if you like prog and metal, and want to try something a bit darker than other prog-metal bands (like Dream Theater), Opeth are probably your best bet. If you're not a fan of very long songs (average Opeth song is about 8-10 minutes, some longer on these early albums) and sparse instrumentation, or growling vocals (though I used to hate it, but Opeth changed my mind about them) then probably best stay away - everyone else? Buy this set!


The Hunter
The Hunter
Price: £6.89

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute masterpiece of progressive metal, 18 Mar 2012
This review is from: The Hunter (Audio CD)
In easily one of the most exciting album release schedules in the history of heavy metal (The long-awaited return of Anthrax, the sonic experimentation of Opeth's Heritage, the epic charge of Machine Head, the newly invigorated Dream Theater and Megadeth), Mastodon had to pull something special off. Already considered to be one of the best bands of the 2000s, their last album 'Crack The Skye' was also one of the best albums of that decade. Anticipation was high for what was coming next. When news flooded the internet that Mastodon were concentrating on smaller songs, as opposed to the epic compositions of 'Crack The Skye', fans were beginning to doubt the band's commitment to prog metal. Fortunately, all presumptions were swept away, as Mastodon revealed the most intricate, impressive and labyrinthine album of 2011.

'The Hunter' works for the shorter songs. On initial listens, you never know where the band is going to take you next, making you really feel like you're going on a musical journey. And the songs themselves range from beautiful to haunting to immense. On an album with 13 tracks, there are simply no duds at all, with all of them offering something very different from the last. Songs range from heavy groves (Black Tongue, Curl of the Burl, Spectrelight) to space rock anthems (Blasteroid, Stargasm,Bedazzled Fingernails) to trippy, stoner rock (Octopus Has No Friends, Creature Lives) to dreamy ballads (The Hunter, The Sparrow). The production is excellent, leading to a very mysterious album, full on invention and experimentation. Overall, the album works as a single entity in the band's discography (all Mastodon's albums are very different to each other) and is simply of one of the best albums of 2011. This one has 'classic' written all over it. In 20 years, Mastodon will be looked back as one of the best metal bands of all time, with 'The Hunter' used as proof of the band's eclecticism. Mastodon are a band that have truly evolved with each record (something many bands - not just metal - need to learn) while not losing that key sound that makes each of their releases special.

Track Ratings:
1. Black Tongue: 9
2. Curl of The Burl: 9
3. Blasteroid: 9
4. Stargasm: 10
5. Octopus Has No Friends: 8
6. All The Heavy Lifting: 9
7. The Hunter: 10
8. Dry Bone Valley: 9
9. Thickening: 8
10. Creature Lives: 10
11. Spectrelight: 9
12. Bedazzled Fingernails: 9
13. The Sparrow: 10


Transformers 1-3 Box Set [DVD]
Transformers 1-3 Box Set [DVD]
Dvd ~ Shia LaBeouf
Offered by MediaMerchants
Price: £16.67

5 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A very poor trilogy, even with the amazing CGI. Spoilers btw., 6 Feb 2012
The 'Transformers' films stand as probably the most popular of the last five or six years. Collectively the films have made just over $2.5 billion dollars between them. Audiences line up for them, rave about the special effects, and enjoy the spectacle. Yet has everyone forgotten how poor the acting is, how awkward the comedy is, how the titular characters don't get much screentime at all, how the plots make no sense. Now some of you maybe like, "I just want to see a dumb action movie", to which I say: "Fair enough". Audiences praise these films enough (even though critics and most geeks despise them) to warrant at least a few haters. I would argue that the Transformers films are textbook perfect examples of what is wrong with Hollywood films today. These are just my opinions, and if you'd like to debate them, fair enough. Everyone has their own opinions about things and that is fine - it's all about how well you explain your opinion.

I need to get a few of things out of the way: 1) I have NO nostalgia for the original series - I'm too young to have been around when the original series aired and I never watched any of the reruns. Meaning this review is not going to be a 'fanboy' rant. 2) I like dumb action films, one's that know exactly what kind of films they are and run with it (Con Air, Commando, the Rambo films, etc.) as I'm going to explain further in my next point. And 3) I am NOT a Michael Bay hater. Sure 'Pearl Harbor' and 'The Island' suck, but his early action films, 'The Rock' and 'Bad Boys' in particular, know exactly what kind of films they are and play with it 100% - fast cars, huge explosions, silly plots etc. The tone is perfect for the type of genre those films were. The tone in the 'Transformers' films is completely wrong and, ultimately, at odds with each other, to the point where they cancel each other out. On the one hand, you have huge, epic, sci-fi action as warring factions fight for the galaxy and protection of Earth. On the other, you have a horny teenage boy and his sex life, coupled with slapstick/fart humour. And it is this storyline that, bizarrely, gets the most attention in the narrative. Shia La Beouf tries his best to portray the 'average' teenage boy, to make him likeable, but fails in every regard due to the script's absolute failure. Ultimately, all three films suffer from an overload of characters, plots, and just plain stupid scenes. All this, while the Autobots are pushed to side - seriously look at "Dark of the Moon", where the first hour or so is spent with Sam trying to find a job, with the stupid humour in tow, while inter-cutting with the 'serious' nature of the Autobots' dilemma. Both scenes lose impact.

Shouldn't a film about transforming robots be aimed at kids? Well not in Transformers' case. Bay feels the need to have a running gags such as humping dogs/robots, racist/sexist humour, drug use, masturbation jokes etc. I like to think of these films as 'American Pie meets Star Wars'. I like both series of the films (not the prequels though), because they work in the context of their films - mix them together and they simply don't work. Mixing mostly serious sci-fi action with high school/gross out humour simply doesn't work - pick one or other! Either go all out with a story that really gets into the Autobot/Decepticon war on a galaxy size scale, OR, perhaps more risky, do a parody, or make the comedy mix more smoothly into the tone. The gritty, smoking ruins of a city is not the place for slapstick comedy. Many times like watching this trilogy I forgot I was watching a sci-fi epic, instead, some kind of cheap "American Pie" knock-off (like one of the sidequels, or something). Heck, Monty Python made a joke about mixing tones/genres in "Life of Brian". Just think of that scene where Brian is abducted randomly by aliens in the middle of this Biblical (COMEDY) epic. That scene illustrates, for me anyway, the bizarreness of the structures of these films. Hey, look robot testicles! Laugh! Uh oh, Sam's Mum has accidentally got high! Hijinks! The humour in these films is just really bad and infantile, and just doesn't mesh with the sci-fi epicness. Again, separately in a comedy film this would be fine, but in an sci-fi action film, it's an absolute mess. What doesn't help is the terrible cinematography/editing. Shaky camera can be used to great effect (Festen, The Bourne Films) but has been overused recently, coupled with the increase in cutting rates, mostly in battles. Just because the editing is fast and frenetic doesn't make the battle fast and frenetic. It just makes it confusing, and actually manages to deprive audiences from getting a good look at the only the things these film have going for them (the CGI).

This is a problem with many modern blockbusters where instead of trying to appeal to a general audience, they try to appeal to as many demographics as possible. For the kid demographic, you have the colourful transforming robots, for the teenage boys you have Megan Fox/Rose whatsherface for eye candy, the action/military scenes, older teenagers (both male and female) can enjoy the 'irony' of watching a film 'aimed' at kids, based on an 80s cartoon (the 80s are 'cool' at the moment) and the "American Pie"-esque humour, and finally the fanboy market who, no matter how bad, WILL go see the film. The films manipulate audiences into thinking these are good films, when really it is just money grabbing producers trying to make as much money as possible from as many markets as possible. Remember "Avatar", while not a great film, it is the textbook perfect blockbuster in appealing to a general audience, and not demographics. After all, besides from sci-fi fans, what demographics would want to see 2 1/2 hours of blue cat people running around? Well quite alot, as the box-office receipts show, as the film appealed to all cinema goers. Plus the tone was right. There are no humping dogs in "Avatar". Comparing "Transformers" to other blockbusters in this way highlights just how poor and nonsensical the scripts actually are. Simply put, these films are just products made to increase the wallets of the stars and producers, with real effort into making it actually good. I know Hollywood is a business (lot's of money is put to make them) but at least in Hollywood's 'Golden Age' they were trying to still make genuinely good films, while also trying to make a profit. Then marketing took over. Marketing that manipulates people. Uhuh.

I should probably talk about the characters for a bit now, because they are probably the worst part of these films, as they suffer from simply too many. Remember those stupid hackers from the first film? You know ... the Australian girl and that guy that ate doughnuts ... what an impact those two made, eh? Were they necessary to the plot? Besides from getting one bit of info, the sound clip, they were useless, and just shoehorned in. How about Sam's girlfriends? Megan Fox/Rosie Huntington-Whiteley probably put the representation of women on film back 50 years. While they at least try to give Megan Fox's character a bit of backstory in the original (convict dad) it really doesn't amount to much in the end. Rosie H-W however...well she's probably never gonna win an Oscar. Or anything for that matter. Seriously, these two women are simply eye-candy, and really serve no purpose in the long run. Plus, there is 0 chemistry between them and Shia la Beouf - we never see that Sam truly loves them, besides from the script telling us that they do. Come to think of it, its pretty strange that after two films, Sam finally admits that he loves Megan Fox, and then they break up? And the little robots say "We never liked her that much anyway". Pretty much undermines the second film (and you know its bad when you undermines "Revenge of the Fallen"). Now I know there was onset troubles with Megan Fox, but they could have a more subtle to show Sam getting into a new relationship in the third film, maybe dealing with him letting go of the past. Meh, could have made things a bit more interesting, but, this being "Transformers", subtly is a bad word. So no, instead we totally disregard all previous character development, just to get a hot girl in there as quick as possible (demographics!!). I'm going to avoid discussing the racist characters, but trust they are so offensive they feel like they've stepped out of 1920s cinema. How Bay got away these stereotypes in today's PC world (no pun intended) is beyond me. How about Sam's parents? The one of the only saving graces of Transformers 3 is that they barely appear (pretty strange praising a film by its lack of something). If you want to suck the comedy out of a room, simply get these two on. Hey, remember Sam's room mate in the second film? Neither does Sam, because he is never mentioned again in the next film. Heck, what about Sam's strange friend from the first film? How about the army guys, who managed to get through THREE films! Why are they still here? Oh yeah, because Michael Bay loves the army and wants to make a film about these guys and not the Transformers. I don't know who any of them are or why I should care. And the attempts to give him depth come across as shallow and two-dimensional. Oh look, he has a picture of his daughter, so we should like him! The film then forgets to give him a characters. And that is the main problem with these films. Characters are given a brief little 2D 'character-builder' and forget to expand on that and develop it. Instead it's more about showing off the action scenes. Oh, the story is a mess, the tone is confusing, the characters don't make sense, but look at the explosions!

CGI can be a great tool. While I prefer practical effects (minatures, make-up, animatronics etc.) CGI can be great for rendering the impossible, but there needs to be a mix. The best example of this in recent years is "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, which perfectly blended both old-school special effects and cutting edge CGI, which was used where needed - for example, CGI was the best tool to create Gollum. However, the films show restraint, as it can only go so far. Performances from actors are always better when they are actually on set, looking at something to act with (a massive stand in Treebeard was used for the actors to work with, with CGI filling in the facial movement). This is CGI being used to tell the story, not the other way around. "Transformers" is 100% guilty of this. Now, admittedly there is arguable no other way of rendering the Transformers any other way. CGI is fine to use here. However, the films are all about showing off this technology and not about investing into the characters and the story. Strip away the amazing CGI and what are you left with? Look back at the original "Star Wars" - the special effects in that film have dated, they have way more impact and memorability than ALL the action scenes in the "Transformers" films, because the story has built up to this point and we care about the characters and what's at stake. I would even argue, in this vein of thinking, that Star Wars' effects are better than "Transformers". What's at stake in "Transformers" when we don't care about the characters and when they all act like like idiots? More on that soon. Ultimately, while the CGI battle scenes are very impressive on a technical level, they just lack context. We don't care what happens to any of the characters, as the story and tone is so convoluted and confusing. Good CGI does not make a good film.

And now the plot holes and just plain strange scenes. These films are a complete mess in terms of their story. Remember at the end of 'Dark of the Moon', where our noble hero murders Sentinel Prime in cold blood (or oil, whatever) while begging for forgiveness? Or the fact that Sam can't find a job, even though he has saved the world. Twice. Would make a pretty good companion to the Autobot team, don't you think? Why do the humans trust the alien robots that have tried taking over the world twice, especially with a name like the DECEPTicons? Yeah, clearly not a trap! Why does Sentinel (oh Leonard Nimoy why?) quote Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few"? (BTW, I know why -_- Even mentioning Wrath of Khan in the same breath as "Transformers" is sickening)? In any case, it doesn't make any sense - enslave billions of humans to aid a few hundred robots? Wait, wait. Also, if there are Decepticons hidden on moon, why haven't any helped in the previous films? Come to think if it, why did Megatron and Sentinel want to meet on Earth to discuss ending the war? Why not just call a ceasefire back on Cybertron? How did the US government cover up the existence of the Autobots after the conclusion of the first film? They destroyed half of a major US city, and throughout the film, we see people recording videos of the Autobots, probably uploading them to YouTube. Plus at the beginning of "Revenge of the Fallen", they blow up half of Shanghai (or wherever they were), fighting in the middle of a highway. What, did they get the Men in Black in just and wipe EVERYONE's memories of the events? That seems the only logical explanation ("When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth" - another Spock quote [Yes, I know Sherlock Holmes said it initially, but I always think of Spock hearing this]). And even if they did (lol!!), YouTube and file sharing still exist meaning videos and images still would have been discovered and passed around. It just makes no sense. The Autobots learnt how to speak English through the Internet, right? How come Megatron, trapped under the ice for thousands of years before the Internet, speaks perfect English? So who landed first? Sentinel or Megatron? Pretty stupid to meet to discuss the plan of ending the war in an uncharted area of the galaxy where anything could have gone wrong, like accidentally crash landing on on a nearby planet. Well, actually there were robots on Earth before all this, as "Revenge" shows ... but still they probably didn't have any contact with them, and that was thousands of years ago .... Did they know about Earth? Hehe, bet Sentinel was pretty angry that Megatron stood him up. Why didn't the previous 8 Primes just kill the Fallen at the time. 8 against 1 are better odds than 1 against 1. How did Sam's parents get to Egypt? Did they just happen to be taking a holiday there? ...probably. On that note, it's a nice coincidence that Sam just happens to (by chance) be put in the same dorm room as a bunch of nerds who obsess over searching for the Autobots and hacking. Why do they have a Mountain Dew drink dispenser in the dorm room? How did they get that in there? Did they steal it? Did the producers put it there after getting a cash payout from Mountain Dew to promote their drink in their film? Probably. And I could go on and on and on. There are so many others I can't even list them here, though these are probably the major ones.

So I've ranted about Transformers for nearly 3000 words now. I've want to rant about these films for ages now, and I've just let it loose. For me, I simply can't enjoy these films. The clash of genres, the lack of focus, the plot holes, the characters, the over use of CGI. It's just everything I don't like about the vast majority of modern blockbusters. Transformers (and other blockbusters) should take notes from the recent Marvel Studios films. They know exactly what they are and who they appeal to. A general audience. The action is great, they are well shot, the focus is clear the stories are entertaining, and most importantly we CARE what happens. Transformers just lacks all this. They are cynical products that exploit the modern Hollywood system to the max. Now, like I said at the start, if you enjoy these films, great. If you would like to debate my opinion, then that's also cool. These are just my thoughts on these films. I don't like them.

RATINGS:
Transformers: **
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: *
Transformers: Dark of the Moon: *
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 21, 2013 11:39 AM BST


Sonic Generations (Xbox 360)
Sonic Generations (Xbox 360)
Offered by Turbotrance
Price: £11.54

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Genuinely surprising! Cynical Sonic fans should consider getting this!, 5 Feb 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Sonic The Hedgehog (the original Mega Drive games) will also hold a special place in my childhood nostalgia, simply being that they were the first videogames I ever played, a hobby that still continues to this day (I'm 20 now, as old as Sonic!). While I moved onto Nintendo and Sony, the Sonic games were always special - perfect platformers made by by truly great programmers. It's only as I've gotten older that the games' best qualities have come out. I need to make this clear though - like most I have never been a fan of 3D Sonic (even, in my opinion, the woefully overrated Sonic Adventure series). This is not because of my nostalgia for the originals clouding my judgement, but rather they are poorly designed and executed games - way too many bugs and characters, with way too much story. On that note, I also didn't enjoy the similarly retro-tinged 'Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1'. The controls simply weren't right (though I hold hope for Episode 2). Now, enough with the past. With that out of the way: 'Sonic Generations'.

While this new game in the series doesn't match the charm and level design of the original games, as a game by itself, it is really good. In a neat twist, levels can be played both as 2D and 3D Sonic (there is a story here, but its very minimalist), with one stage from each Sonic game. So you get 2D and 3D version of 'Green Hill Zone', 'Chemical Plant Zone', 'Rooftop Run' etc. This truly is an excellent tribute to those games. Keep this in mind, as this is how to truly enjoy 'Generation'. For once Sega has got the controls right for both Sonics. 2D feels just like the Mega Drive days and 3D Sonic has never felt better, using the controls from 'Unleashed' as the basis (easily the best part of that game). In fact, I think I enjoyed the 3D stages a little more than the 2D ones, though some are better than others. Overall, it feels like the right amount of balance. My criticism would be that maybe it is a little too short (in comparison to the relatively huge 'Rayman: Origins'), but there are plenty of challenges and additional missions to sink you teeth into. While many of the infamous Sonic friends make appearance they are no where as obnoxious as they have been previously. The time I got frustrated on a level was the 'Planet Wisp' level that completely removed the momentum and speed of the Sonic gameplay and made it quite monotonous.

However, with a couple of glitches aside, all-in-all 'Sonic Generations' is a very balanced game, that is a blast to play at the time (and is a great tribute to previous games) but it probably won't leave a big impact on you. At least it did for me - while it was great fun to play these classic stages from a new point-of-view, we've seen it already. Rather, more positively, it'll renew hope in fans that the NEXT game in the series could be something truly special.


Rayman Origins (Xbox 360)
Rayman Origins (Xbox 360)
Offered by 6 Hungry Weasels
Price: £14.30

4.0 out of 5 stars Probably the most underrated game of 2011, 5 Feb 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
In an age of cheap retro HD remakes capitalizing on our nostalgia (and 'New Super Mario Bros.' (deserved) success), it maybe easy to write off 'Rayman: Origins' as a cash-in on this craze. However, this idea is beyond cynical, as 'Origins' is easily the most entertaining, colourful and just plain fun platformer in years (in my opinion, surpassing the plumber's new 2D outings). 'Rayman: Origins' harks back to the era of Super Nintendo/Sega Mega Drive era platformers, in which controls and design were everything. There is no pretension in 'Rayman: Origins' - its is simply an excellently designed game, where just having a great time is at the forefront.
While I never played the original 'Rayman' as much as its sequel (the equally underrated 'The Great Escape'), there are plenty of nods to it, as well as trying new and exciting things. This generation of consoles has desperately needed bright dabs of primary colour paint, and 'Origins' 100% accepts this. The wonderful animation of the characters, worlds, creatures and effects are simply beyond excellent - it feels like a Saturday morning cartoon come to life (with a larger budget!). Every stage and monster has something wacky and hilarious to remember about it. On other levels, the soundtrack is simply as odd and as wacky as every other aspect of the design, ranging from jazz swing to brass orchestration to didgeridoo bands! The collectables and power-ups are also great, making you want to go back to previous levels, and check every nook and cranny to find that last trapped Lum. I cannot stress how wonderful the design of this game is, and the effort from Ubisoft to make this game come to life. The sheer amount to do in this game (levels, challenges, secrets, Lums) you're not gonna get bored any time soon.
However, the game is ultimately bittersweet. While we have this amazingly designed and crafted game, it failed to grab buyer's attention (released at the end of last year with at least 8 triple-A titles) and ultimately bombed. Which is an absolute shame. While buyer's were getting a poorly designed, cut-and-paste first-person shooter (no names, though you can probably guess which game I'm referring to), this gem was sitting on the shelf. A true game that entertains on all levels - a wonderful and loveable art design, with solid controls and re-playability. So to buyers unsure whether to buy this game, do yourself a favour and do. In the final months of 2011 crammed with excellent games (Skyrim, Batman, Uncharted, Dark Souls, Zelda etc.) it may be easy to overlook this little game. Don't!


Unto The Locust (Special Edition)
Unto The Locust (Special Edition)
Price: £26.98

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure, crushing metal, 19 Jan 2012
Machine Head have outdone themselves 100% with this record. While I enjoy the now legendary 'The Blackening', I never quite got into as much as others did (still rank it as one of the best albums of the 2000s). With 'Unto The Locust' it absolutely clicked. This is the sound of modern metal - a respect for the grandmasters (Iron Maiden, 80s Metallica etc.), but also a mix of the aggression of recent metal groups. 'Unto The Locust' is arguably the best metal album of the year (f*** it, one of the best albums of the year), for totally understanding exactly what it is. This is a metal record. Huge riffs. Epic lyrics. Insane guitar solos. Machine Head know, and understand, how to make quality modern metal, and are unashamed about it. For that, tracks like 'I Am Hell' and 'Who We Are', work, despite their huge grandeur, because they are played with honesty. That and all the songs on this album are absolute killers. From the epic opening of 'I Am Hell', to the Iron Maiden-esque riffing of 'Be Still and Know', to the almost Opeth-esque 'Darkness Within', to absolute epic anthems of 'Locust' and 'Who We Are' (my favourite track), this is an album that NEVER lets up - always throwing in more examples of what metal masters Machine Head are. At only 7 tracks (4 of them are 7 minutes plus), it never outstays its welcome. This is the kind of record that reminded me why I love metal music. Seriously, this is beyond recommended.

1. I Am Hell (Sonata in C#): 10
2. Be Still and Know: 9
3. Locust: 10
4. This Is The End: 9
5. Darkness Within: 10
6. Pearls Before The Swine: 8
7. Who We Are: 10
Album Rating: 10


Heritage
Heritage
Price: £14.18

5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating, intricate masterpiece, 19 Jan 2012
This review is from: Heritage (Audio CD)
Opeth's 10th album (or 'observation') is a strange beast. While Opeth always seemed to move towards a full-blown prog album, some fans were alienated by the lack of death growls and 'heaviness'. An album that contains flute solos, jazz fusion experiments, Pink Floyd-esque instrumentation, and a clean voiced Mikael was always going to divide audiences. In a fantastic year for metal, Opeth's Heritage as the most brave and ambitious album of the lot.
The smooth mellotron, mixed with beautiful acoustics and a 'pure' electric guitar sound, makes this a dreamlike venture in a desolate land. Opeth's skills in album making always stems from the fact they understand tone, and the gloomy piano titular instrumental perfectly sets the mood. From here, the album explodes into an exploration of progressive rock, mixed with, as mentioned, jazz fusion, but most importantly, it STILL sounds like an Opeth record. The production and the actual musicianship is excellent, where, in an era of frankly mostly rubbish production, Opeth are brave enough to strip away the flab, and let the instruments and the lyrics breathe. From the smooth Spanish sounding acoustic intro of 'I Feel The Dark' to the strange sonic experiments of 'Famine' to the strangely upbeat 'Slither' to the epic two album closers 'Folklore' and 'Marrow of the Earth', the album covers a wide breath of styles, while still retaining a unified feel.
While hardcore death-metal fans may be put off, for everyone else who loves the continuing journey of this strange band from Sweden, this is yet another excellent addition to their discography. And like all great albums it leaves you wondering: 'What next for the band?'

1. Heritage: 8
2. The Devil's Orchard: 9
3. I Feel The Dark: 10
4. Slither: 9
5. Nepenthe: 9
6. Haxprocess: 10
7. Famine: 10
8. The Lines In My Hand: 9
9. Folklore: 10
10. Marrow of the Earth: 9
Album Score: 9/10


Arrietty Deluxe Collector's Edition - Double Play (Blu-ray + DVD)
Arrietty Deluxe Collector's Edition - Double Play (Blu-ray + DVD)
Dvd ~ Hiromasa Yonebayashi

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite film of 2011, 16 Jan 2012
In a summer big explosions, aliens, space ships, mutants, boy wizards, pirates, super heroes, and battling apes, you gotta hand it every once in a while to the little guys. Studio Ghibli, the creative geniuses behind Oscar winning Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, have delivered another home-run. Scripted by animation god Hayao Miyazaki (In my opinion the most talented filmmaker working today) and directed by first-timer Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the film is based on the ever-popular children's book The Borrowers (though I have to admit I've never read the book or seen the 90's film).

The film follows Arrietty and her Borrower family as they try to live in secrecy under the floor boards of an old house, inhabited by a sickly boy named Sho, and it is their friendship that is at the heart of the film. Problem is Borrowers fear humans. As the film shows, the two come from totally different worlds and struggle to co-exist- in a pivotal scene Sho gives the family a new kitchen from a doll's house and what appears to be a kind gesture from Sho is a catastrophe for Arrietty akin to a natural disaster! However, over the course of the film, the two learn to live and understand each other and their worlds.

Perhaps the best scenes of the film, and the ones that show best Ghibli's animation skills, are from Arriety's point of view. Whether it's staring out into the vastness of the garden, to empty blackness of the crawl space, to riding on Sho's shoulder, Arrietty's world is that of danger and small beauty. The physics of it all work really well and you totally buy through the entire film that Arrietty is only 10cm tall. A big credit must be given to the sound design, where even a tiny rain drop sounds like a waterfall or swinging of a needle is that of a sword - it's probably the best sound design I've heard in a film in a long time. Perhaps the best scene that shows off all these elements is during Arrietty's first `borrowing' with her father, combining very imaginative ways for the little guys to get around the huge kitchen. Put simply the aesthetics of the film are beautifully detailed and thought out, all contributing to pulling you into this world. The music by Cecile Corbel, while not as anthemic as Joe Hisaishi score, adds a folky delicacy and ambiance to the film.

Overall, this film is completely refreshing in the summer canon. It is a quiet, beautifully drawn film that draws you into its world for a brisk 90 minutes. While it has slipped under the general movie goer's radar I do highly suggest this film - and Hollywood could take a few notes also. Ghibli really understands the language of cinema, and how to make us relate to the characters. Every frame is filled with wonder, excitement and care for the project, while advancing the story. I love the kind of films where if you could turn off the dialogue you could still understand and follow the story - let the visuals and the music tell the story - Arrietty is definitely one of those films. Pure visual and storytelling delight for all ages, and my personal favourite film of the 2011. 9/10


Discovery
Discovery
Price: £113.66

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent music - great set for newbies, 4 Jan 2012
This review is from: Discovery (Audio CD)
While I could moan about the lack of linear notes (though the art book is very nice) or extras, and continually compare it to the excellent Beatles in Stereo boxset, I have to remember this set is called 'Discovery' - it's meant for new fans of Pink Floyd, an introduction, a 'discovery'. This seems silly to point out but alot of Floyd fans seem to be complaining about this. I got this set to complete my Floyd collection - I owned about 1/3 of the set and I worked out it was actually cheaper to buy this set then to buy the older 1990s, quickly becoming out-of-print, CDs - so I got a good deal there (got it at £100). If you own all the Floyd albums, and depending on how much emphasis you put on 'sound quality' will determine whether you buy the set.

Now with that out of the way, the actual set is excellent. The box is very sturdy and, as mentioned, the art book with commentary is a very nice addition. The remaster is pretty great, probably better on the older albums, as the newer ones were big budget projects recorded with the best equipment at the time, so the clean up isn't quite as noticeable, but things do seem to be a bit clearer and louder, in particular the bass. As for the actual music? They range from 'masterpiece' to 'great' to 'good' to 'meh'. If your interested there is my personal rating for the albums as listed below:

1. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn: 9
2. A Saucerful of Secrets: 8
3. More: 6
4. Ummagumma: 6
5. Atom Heart Mother: 7
6. Meddle: 9
7. Obscured by Clouds: 7
8. The Dark Side of the Moon: 10
9. Wish You Were Here: 10
10. Animals: 10
11. The Wall: 10
12. The Final Cut: 8
13. A Momentary Lapse of Reason: 4
14. The Division Bell: 8

And here are my quick thoughts on each album. 'Piper' is completely of its time, but is still a great psychedelic listen. 'Saucerful', I feel, is very underrated, containing some fascinating tracks, such as the cult song 'Set The Controls For the Heart of the Sun'. 'More' is an interesting listen as Floyd try to reinvent themselves after Barrett's departure, but probably not one to re-listen to. 'Ummagumma', while the live album is very good, the actual studio disc is pretty weak, with compositions done by the band members as solo works, showing their lack of direction. 'Atom Heart Mother' is sometimes unfairly picked on, as some of the songs are actually pretty good like 'Fat Old Sun' or 'Summer 68'. 'Meddle' is an excellent album, bookended with a stunning opening, 'One of These Days' and 23 minute closer, 'Echoes'. 'Obscured by Clouds', another soundtrack album, but one that has, arguably, aged better than 'More'. 'Dark Side of the Moon' is one of the best albums of the 1970s. 'Wish You Were Here's in one of the best albums of the 1970s. 'Animals' is the most underrated album of all time - seriously it's an amazing record. 'The Wall' is an epic monument to the height of Floyd's commercial success, and is an excellent album. 'The Final Cut' is a very good album, but not so great as Floyd album. 'Momentary Lapse' is pretty weak. 'Division Bell' see the remaining Floyd members get their together to make a final, I feel, very underrated album. Puhhhh.

So if you're curious about this little English prog band, and have maybe heard Dark Side or Wish You Were Here, and want to hear more, this is the best place to start. Older fans? Maybe not. It depends on how many Floyd CDs you own, or how much emphasis you put on extras or sound quality. For me, it's a great set that finally completes a collection I've wanted for ages now.


Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
Price: £11.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Underrated, unappreciated - one of Maiden's best!, 18 Feb 2011
Why do people often forget this album? It's actually baffling to me, as this is easily one of Maiden's best, and easily one of their most consistent. Indeed this would be the last album with Adrian Smith, who was with the band since 'Killers', and what would follow would be a dramatic downturn in creativity with ...*shudder*...'No Prayer for the Dying', and wouldn't rejoin the band until the brilliant 'Brave New World' in 2000.
Serving as a concept album the album follows the myth of, you guessed it, the seventh son of a seventh son, an old folklore legend, where the said son would gain special powers. Could this have turned people off? Surprisingly, the concept never overbears on itself (I know it sounds quite Spinal Tap-esque), and you don't really need to follow the story to enjoy the album in any case. Unlike many other concept albums that need to listened in one listen, 'Seventh Son''s songs can quite easily be enjoyed by themselves. In fact, the songs are uniformly excellent. The marriage of Maiden with synths and guitars is finally perfected and are used to stunning effect throughout the album, creating a very prog rock feel. From epic compositions (the title track) to rock radio staples ('Can I Play With Madness') the album is constantly varied and never boring - that would doesn't exist in this album's vocabulary.
Maiden's confidence in themselves really comes across in the more ambitious tracks, such as the title track or the slow, almost ballad like, 'Infinite Dreams'. The record shows a side of Maiden that has never been really seen before. It is this variation in the styles and consistently high quality writing and compositions that make this album a must own for anyone with an interest in heavy metal. Huge, epic, pompous, consistent, stunning, and striking, this is one of classic Maiden's best albums, and their most unappreciated from the classic era. Can't stress how excellent this album is. Up the Irons!!
1. Moonchild 10/10
2. Infinite Dreams 10/10
3. Can I Play With Madness 10/10
4. The Evil That Men Do 10/10
5. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son 9/10
6. The Prophecy 8/10
7. The Clairvoyant 10/10
8. Only the Good Die Young 10/10


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