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N. UNWIN
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Triumph and Power
Triumph and Power
Price: £18.80

5.0 out of 5 stars Classic sound, 4 May 2014
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This review is from: Triumph and Power (Audio CD)
This was "risk" purchase based on Amazon recommendation and the preview snippets on the product page. A very unpretentious, uncomplicated, straight ahead metal sound, reminiscent of the '80s NWOBHM era. You'd have thought that these avenues would have been well trodden over the years, especially when you look at somem of the track titles. but somehow Grand Magus manages to avoid cliche and sound fresh and exciting. For a three piece they don't sound like they're missing anything from the soundscape either. If you like post-Ozzy Sabbath or early 80s metal this should be right up your street. I'll have to see if I can pick up some of their back catalog now.


Ronnie James Dio - This Is Your Life
Ronnie James Dio - This Is Your Life
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars No egos, just a fitting tribute, 4 May 2014
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Although there are many bands from different periods and styles of metal on here, they have all stayed more or less true to the original versions. That's what makes this album work so well. No egos, no BS, just faithful appreciation of one of the greatest rock/metal singers of all time. I could highlight many things here from Anthrax's thrilling kick-off on Neon nights or the fact the Hetfield hasn't sounded so good in years on Kill The King. But seriously there's not a bad egg on here. Even Ronnie himself appears at the end on the title track, recorded back in the '90s, a simple, piano-based song that reminds us of what we're missing.

A no-brainer purchase. Oh, and since proceeds go to charity, there's little excuse not to buy it.


Vibrato
Vibrato
Price: £12.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not as great as his last two efforts, 3 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: Vibrato (Audio CD)
This album is a combination of leftovers from his previous sessions and live recordings from the European tour of Fuzz Universe. Unfortunately that is also exactly how it sounds. It focuses mostly on that dirty 70's groove that Fuzz contained so much of and it showcases Paul's unique view of the world on the vocal tracks. Some of the individual tracks are worthy contenders to appear on Fuzz or Silence and there's even that Racer-X spark on Rain and Thunder and Lightning, but for about half the album I can see why they didn't make it to the end of the original sessions. This gives the album a bit of an eclectic feel and doesn't have the same level of consistency throughout or take off in the same way as his last two efforts. The live tracks are well recorded and round out the album nicely taking my memories back to the show, especially hearing the very underrated Tony Spinner again on second guitar. But it's not enough to save what is undoubtedly a competent album from being great.


Beyond: Two Souls Special Edition (PS3)
Beyond: Two Souls Special Edition (PS3)
Offered by rockaway-records
Price: £37.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beyond: A Last Action Hero experience, 26 Oct. 2013
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
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Beyond: Two Souls is the story of Jodie Holmes who since birth has been tied to Aiden, an entity that protects her and has his own will. The story is told as out-of-seqence flashbacks to Jodie's life growing up from a young girl, through her teenage years into womanhood, and her relationship with Nathan Dawkins, directory of a paranormal research institute. Ellen Page and Willem Defoe do an excellent job in bringing Jodie and Nathan to life, helping you understand what drives the characters and to consider which decision you would make under the circumstances.

The gameplay is mostly limited to dialog selection and controlling the characters movements during action sequences. You can control both Jodie and the entity Aiden, using the latter mostly to get you of otherwise impossible situations. Those familiar with Quantic Dream will draw comparisons with Heavy Rain, a choose you own adventure style murder mystery in which the direction of the story and the fate of the characters was entirely in your hands. This experience is more linear and akin to Last Action Hero, throwing you into a movie blockbuster in which your choices are more about what you think the characters would do under certain circumstances, to govern the path but not the outcome of individual scenes. This appears to have been a major critisicm of Beyond, especially coming after Heavy Rain and although I can see this argument, it really depends on how much effort on your part you want to immerse yourself into the story. Moreover this argument is not strictly true, since the choices you make during the game will influence the experience you (and the characters) will encounter and ultimately the choices that you will make in the final scene and by extension the outcome of the epilogue.

Overall it is less intense from a gameplay point of view than Heavy Rain because characters won't die as a result of your actions and there are far fewer time-factored choices to be made (hence only three stars for "fun"). But the story itself is more emotional and more profound in its conclusion (coincidentally Aiden and I had a shared experience which touched me from a personal perspective).

You might ask yourself after this event whether you just experienced a mo-capped 12 hour movie or participated in a video game. The line is blurred and I say don't restrict yourself to artistic norms and take this as the interactive experience that it is, and perhaps as a glimpse of how future entertainment might be consumed.


Bula Quo!
Bula Quo!
Price: £7.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quirky, 26 July 2013
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This review is from: Bula Quo! (Audio CD)
It's a soundtrack to their film and not a studio album in the traditional sense, so I can forgive them for going off on a limb to some extent. The reworking of "Living on an Island" for example is an interesting listen, but the title track sounds like some idea that a producer came up with just to fit to with the film location. In general I find the material too middle-of-road and quite honestly I prefer the "bonus" live tracks to the main disk. For die-hard fans and collectors only I would say. Get "Quid Pro Quo" if you really want to know what the a modern Status Quo are capable of.


Quid Pro Quo
Quid Pro Quo
Offered by smeikalbooks
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Best since Heavy Traffic, 26 July 2013
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This review is from: Quid Pro Quo (Audio CD)
Francis commented on the Hello! documentary that he found this album less varied than the last (Fourth Chord). Although I agree with him, it's not for the worst. There's a feel on this album which sounds like they've rediscovered something from their classic 70s period. This is the heads-down, no-nonsense boogie that fans will love, and although it's got modern production and it's not Hello! or Quo all over again, I think its better than some of their later 70s and 80s efforts. Favourites for me are Two Way Traffic and Dust to Gold, but there isn't really a duff track on here, with one notable exception: why the reworking of Army? It doesn't add anything to the original and doesn't fit with the feel of the rest of the tracks. Luckily it's at the end so it's easy to skip. Other than that, absolutely no complaints, so if you like Quo in any way or even if you haven't liked anything they've done since the mid-80s, at least give this one a whirl.


The Last Of Us (PS3)
The Last Of Us (PS3)
Offered by Gameline GmbH.
Price: £20.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Great characters in this interactive escort mission, 26 July 2013
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This review is from: The Last Of Us (PS3) (Video Game)
This is my first Naughty Dog purchase but I understand they use the same sandboxed, interactive story design for the Uncharted series. The game plays like an interactive action move, with cut scenes using the games engine used to split up different chapters of the game, which then blend into action and puzzle sequences in which the player controls one of the characters.
I seem to have a soft spot for the post-apocalyptic so the scenario appeals to me. Although there are parallels with zombie games (of which there is an absolute glut at the moment), this is not just a monster kill frenzy. The focus is more on survival as you run into bandits and other humans more often than "the infected". You also have to act sparingly with your resources and choose whether to stand and fight, use stealth attacks or avoid confrontation altogether, the choice is yours. I tended to go more the stealth route to save ammo in my case, unless the situation meant I was totally outnumbered, partly because I seemed to be such a bad shot (though that's probably more my ineptitude than any criticism of the game).
To make any game in this style work, both the story and characters need to be compelling. For me this is what makes this game great. The dialogue between the characters, both in and out of the cut scenes is very well written and voice acted, so you build empathy with the characters in the game. Since you are controlling them from a third person perspective rather than POV, it gives you more of a sense of responsibility that their destiny is ultimately in your hands. There was even a point later in the game when I kept getting sweet 14 year old Ellie killed repeatedly from gun shot wounds or being run through with a blade, that I really found the whole experience quite disturbing. I think the 18 certificate is certainly justified.
I played through on normal mode and when the going gets tough and you start dying a ridiculous number of times, the game will assist by giving you hints, suggesting you change the difficulty level or actually adjusting the scenario by increasing your health or behaviour of enemies, just enough to get you out of tight spots. Choosing higher levels of difficulty will remove these assists. It's a nice way of avoiding frustrating dead-ends in what effectively is an interactive movie, while still proving enough challenge for experienced players.
I've read remarks on gaming sites saying this style is the future of gaming. I wouldn't go that far, since I was playing the likes of Burn:Cycle on the CD-i in the mid-nineties which uses a similar format. But going forward with graphics quality ever improving, this kind of experience can only get better. However it still takes good writing, a convincing level of immersion and character empathy to make it a success. I would say that with The Last Of Us Naughty Dog have got this balance just right.


Queensr˙che
Queensr˙che
Price: £17.70

4.0 out of 5 stars Sounds like the old days?, 5 July 2013
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This review is from: Queensr˙che (Audio CD)
I said in my review of the previous album "Dedicated to Chaos" that Tate was the weakest link. Well things obviously came to a head and now he's gone his own way. Honestly, why doesn't he just continue under his own name rather than rushing to release before his former bandmates and with a puerile title like "FU" at that? In any case the band are free to let us hear what they are capable of with ex-Crimson Glory boy Todd La Torre.

The result is what Queensryche would sound like if "The Warning" had been their previous album in 2010 or something. Yes, it has a modern sound but the feel and melodies sound like they've gone back to the earliest days for inspiration. Mindcrime it isn't, but this is by far the most exciting Queensryche album I have heard in almost 20 years. There is a new energy in this album, like something has been unleashed from the depths. At the same time it's a good thing they haven't tried to make a new Mindcrime, which probably would have sound forced this early in their new line-up and perhaps a bigger attempt at a "FU" than Tate is pulling. I can't really find a fault on any of the tracks though I'm not sure there are any classics on here yet. The overall result is solid, well defined and well produced.

Todd La Torre is a dead ringer for Tate on this album, maybe uncomfortably so. Reminds a little of what Journey have done with Arnel Pineda, pulling a "close your eyes and tell me its not Steve Perry" type stunt. I do have one small gripe in that it sounds like some tracks have an element of auto-tune in them, but I'm not sure if that's to cover up the vocal or part of a sound effect they are trying to create. Curious. On the other hand, on one or two brief occasions we get a hint of the fact that Todd's range is far higher than Tate can manage these days, which bodes well for the live shows. Will we finally get to hear Take Hold of the Flame again?

My biggest criticism of this album is that it's too short! I couldn't believe 10 tracks went by in 35 minutes. But its definitely quality, not quantity here so I can forgive them, especially if this is any sign of their future direction. Let's just hope they get to keep the name...


The Calling
The Calling
Price: £14.56

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice grooves but nothing groundbreaking, 4 April 2013
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This review is from: The Calling (Audio CD)
If you like Neal's licks from Journey and his taste for melody then you'll feel at home with this. There's nothing particularly new here, except some occasional experimentation with some whammy, octaving and a couple of "detuned" solos (the latter of which, like a previous reviewer said, didn't tickle me much either). The overall feel is in a similar direction to Satriani's "Black Swans..." in that straight ahead grooves form the basis of most of the tracks; nothing too complicated just a good rockin' listen. Some tracks are bit heavier than others and there are couple of Journey ballad candidates thrown in. I don't know why we get a jazz keyboard solo on a track that isn't jazzy at all, though it would have been nice to have heard Neal try his hand at some jazz solos himself. It is great to hear the (instantly recognisable) Jan Hammer guesting on a couple of tracks which adds some spice. But for me the real star of the show has to be Steve Smith who really adds backbone to the proceedings and livens the whole experience. For me it's what takes this album up a notch from an album that would otherwise just be three stars. For Schon/Journey fans and lovers of hook driven, instrumental rock.


No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Comfortable fit, quality shirt, 1 Aug. 2012
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My second of these. Material is a decent thickness, well finished and still keeping its shape after a good few washes. Print isn't deteriorating either. Bear in mind that the print is red so pick a colour that gives a decent contrast, or go for the black print instead.
Now, time to kill some more dragons...


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