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Mr. SCM Bell "Black Cat Theory" (UK)

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Die Another Day - Special Edition [DVD] [2002]
Die Another Day - Special Edition [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Pierce Brosnan|Halle Berry|Rosamund Pike
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £1.34

4 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dire Another Day, 17 Sept. 2003
Does anyone remember when the release of a Bond film was a huge event? Do you remember when Bond signified the last word in state of the art movie action combining mind blowing set pieces with cool gadgets and an appealing hero? Does anyone remember For Your Eyes Only? No? Goldfinger? Surely. Well then...
Bond hasn't evolved over his forty years. Fact. And here's another. Watching Die Another Day, just like the equally abysmal Forever Never Dies and the World is not Enough it didn't really feel like you were watching a premier league film release. It felt a bit more like when you rent a film which you've heard about, maybe one which has an exciting cover and a synopsis with lots of exlamation marks(!). But then you get it home and it turns out to be a lot tack with vast ammounts of CG liberally used to cover up the lack of budget and substance.
So there's Bond in 2003 folks. All flash and no bang. The nice cars and Halle Berry can't cover up the woeful lack of plot depth (who the hell cares about conflict diamonds?), the strangely uninvolving action and the immensely plastic looking set pieces. I refer you specifically to the pathetic sight of the baddie's aircraft breaking up in the final reel. Honestly, there are computer games out there now which can deliver more realistic looking thrills than this, and they are interactive too.
To conclude, I have for many years been a fan of Bond, but this film was so poor that I struggled to maintain concentration throughout it's duration. Okay there are a few moments of old skool Bond. The fencing club brawl for one and the mildly stirring inroductory scene (okay theres another), but really thats about it. That much lauded car chase scene just looks so tacky. Like an eighties vision of near future technology.
Forget this, just watch Live and Let Die again instead.

Black Cherry
Black Cherry
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.96

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cherry Picking, 18 Aug. 2003
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Black Cherry (Audio CD)
Not being the sort of person who is easily seduced by singer songwriter types I was, however, totally blown away by a TV airing of Strict Machine and immediately ordered the album. On first listen I immediately knew I was in the presence of something special.
It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what it is that makes Black Cherry such a great album. Is it the sleazy, grinding synth sounds? The digital heaviness which at times calls to mind the Nine Inch Nails at their best? Or perhaps the beautifully arranged string instruments which carve out immediately memorable melodies in the background? Maybe it’s all of these things? All of these things combined with the fact that A.G.’s voice is loaded with such dark and erotic intrigue that it is almost irresistable.

As you would expect for an album cobbled together principally by two dues paid musicians, the arrangements on Black Cherry are never short of technically eloquent. One half of the musical partnership being Portishead collaborator Will Gregory comes as no surprise when you hear the style with which the more traditional instruments are fused to the supra-modern sounding keyboard blips and squelches. Connections aside Goldfrapp sound nothing like Portishead. Their work on this album is somehow more immediate and less cold and haughty than the Head.
There is a hefty streak of pop alongside the rock on Black Cherry and during cuts like Train and Strict Machine (the album’s two hit singles) the tip of the hat to the likes of Blondie and Donna Summer are undeniable. But theres more... This album fits into that trans genre appeal group filled by bands like Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers. You will feel this in no small measure as the surging intensity at the end of Crystalline Green gives way to the crunch and grind of Train before climaxing into the airy summertime of the album’s title track.
It’s a short, sweet album and leaves you wanting more. It’s aggressive yet friendly, sleazy yet pure. This one is a future classic, make no mistake about it.

Good Beneath Radar
Good Beneath Radar
Offered by music_by_mail_uk
Price: £4.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Beneath the Radar and Very Good., 4 July 2003
This review is from: Good Beneath Radar (Audio CD)
The first thing that strikes you about ‘Good Beneath the Radar’ is just how much musical invention has gone into it. Band mainstays Shillabeer and Dewey, in the recording of each separate track seem to have gone to the ends of the earth to find unusual sounds and instruments to punctuate their off-kilter post-rock, post-punk, post-everything pop tunes. Happily all this invention seems to have been executed without diluting the music and the frequent use of brass instruments, female backing vocals, samples, sound loops, theramin and cheesy keyboards never detract from the basic shape of the songs.
The album kicks off with a couple of engaging gems. The tightly compressed acoustic strains of ‘Human Beings Enjoy the Winter’ melt into the heavier, generally overdriven ‘We Are the Stuffed Men’ before finally collapsing into the commercial excellence of ‘The Me Decade’. The latter song stands not only as the best track on the album but also as one of my favourite songs of this year.
Points of interest continue throughout the album with the distinctly dark feel to songs like the sample punctuated ‘Trapped in the Orbit of a Satellite Town’ and the aggressively dissonant ‘Keeler Squared’ jostling for position with more lucid, melodic and pastoral strums like ‘Barnard’s Dream’.
Throughout the unusually titled and apparently abstract sounding titles there is a real sense of lyrical voyage. Just read the inlay card along with the songs. There is an imagination at work here, one that keeps on scribbling down fragments of books, magazines, half heard conversations and throw-away comments and bending them into these odd songs. On getting some distance inside the head of the song-writer you are struck with just how much the odd chord sequences, strange instruments and flailing musical style fit the lyrics which are ever bit as bizarre. There are themes and stories, sort of. But just when you think you understand the rug gets whipped out from under your feet. The whole thing is intoxicatingly fresh and honest. There is no embarrassing tough guy posturing, no pseudo urban nonsense and no regard whatsoever for fashion. This is the album that the makers of ‘Pop Idols’ don’t want you to know exists.
If this album ever suffers it is that it seems to have been recorded in quite a DIY sort of fashion. As such acoustic instruments, particularly the drum kit, occasionally get lost in the mix (see ‘We are the Stuffed Men’, ‘Goldwater’ et al.) however I’m well aware that the home-grown nature of this album may well be half it’s charm. Would a major label really have afforded this band the time to mess about with sound loops and instrumentation or would they have drafted in a producer to tell them how they were going to make their album? Who knows? But I’ll tell you Britain is producing good bands and good albums. Just ask The Playwrights.

Silent Hill 3 (PS2)
Silent Hill 3 (PS2)
Offered by APE-GAMES
Price: £12.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Silent but violent., 2 Jun. 2003
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Silent Hill 3 (PS2) (Video Game)
Waking up from some kind of blackout which involved thick, claggy looking bloody pumping out of the plug-hole of a dirty looking bathtub you make your way down a dingy corridor lined with evil-looking rusty metal fittings and very dodgy looking stains. At the end of the corridor is a bizarre effigy of a hanged woman desperately clinging onto the hand of an infant. Not sure of what you are seeing you wheel around to be faced by a sinister looking doll staring at you from a bloody stained wheelchair while in the background clanging industrial noise reminds you of the bowels of hell... loosening just like yours are. Welcome back to Silent Hill.
I don't know about you but I just don't care that survival horror is getting a bit long in the tooth. I don't care that Konami and Capcom still wrestle each other for supremacy using the same old scenarios (biochemistry gone insane - Resident Evil and subjective voyages into repressed memory and dark secrets - Silent Hill). And whats more I'm delighted that with Resident Evil moving over to the Gamecube Silent Hill is back again on the PS2. A certain mag recently commented that 'where can the genre go from here?' well, as long as the stories are so involving, sinister and well presented who cares where the genre goes as long as it isn't far away.
Silent Hill 3 marks an immediately obvious departure, albeit minor from its two predecessors. For the first time, with this adventure you will be able to understand the plot, where as with the first two episodes the ultimate outcome was bleak and highly open to your own interpretation. This departure bears out in practical terms too because from the very outset when you are cast into a theme park filled with grotesque monsters the action is significantly more visceral and less cerebral than before. Personally I was a big fan of the downbeat, puzzle heavy mix of the previous instalments but here rather than cutting anything out they have added more. There is still plenty of brainpower required, but for the first time in the series you may find yourself slugging it out. Of course this is often literally the case as bullets and shells are thin on the ground and you are often reduced to a knife, pipe, mace or even a katana. This all makes for a superior gaming experience with you often feeling in real danger, rather than just the threat of danger that haunted the previous games.
Despite the action heavy content the little scares haven't been neglected. Mannequins bleed, children scream, anonymous creatures roar and grunt and at one point a telephone rings abruptly as you walk past it. The nurses are back too and more screechy and jerky than ever. The richness of detail in this game will never dissapoint you and as we have come to expect from this developer the voice acting and cut scenes are of a very high standard.
It must be said that the architecture of SH3 doesn't really offer anything new. The music is pretty similar to previous efforts, the game engine is the same, the same type of puzzles are employed and for god's sake guys did we really need a third visit to Silent Hill Hospital? But I think in truth I would have been disappointed if this game didn't follow on closely from the last. In a latter chapter when you finally make it onto the streets of the town itself I felt a sense of edgy nostalgia when I revisited the Heaven's Night club and the thought that the game might drag me back up to Silent Hill Historical Society was genuinely unnerving. Okay so the manufacturers haven't really reinvented the wheel here but at least they have made a big effort to make the monsters you face more varied. There is everything you could wish not to meet here from running things, to crawling and flying things plus a grab-bag of satisfying boss encounters. The numerous new locations too are absolutely beautiful in a sick way with twisted sculptures and foreboding symbolism everywhere.
So there you have it then. There is nothing brand new, but what there is is 110% solid gold classic gameplay. If you enjoyed the previous two you will adore this and if you didn't you won't, but if you have never played any of them, then for gods sake get this, and play it on a surround sound TV with the lights off right now.

Deftones [Uk Version-Enh'D]
Deftones [Uk Version-Enh'D]
Offered by Leisurezone
Price: £5.80

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Minervous Breakdown, 21 May 2003
It is a mystery to me why I keep going back to the Deftones. I guess in truth the only reason it can be is on the strength of their classic first album. When 'Adrenaline' came out it marked something completely distinct to the vast array of Korn-alikes who were everywhere in 1995. Even though the press lumped the Deftones into the same group for my money they were more metallic, less flashy and more musical than the gargantuan sludgy grooves of Korn.
Sadly the genius of 'Adrenaline' didn't follow. 'Around the Fur' was okay but followed trends rather than making them, it also went a little too trad. metal in my opinion. Then came 'The White Pony' which in many ways was a more suitable next step. It dumped the metallic posturing a bit in favour of better song writing and some mellow moments. Needless to say hopes for 'Minerva' were high. Some have said that the single was the best thing they have ever done and surely in this (almost) post nu-metal age the Deftones could be free of any pretension and release exactly the kind of album they are capable of. In a recent interview singer Chino Moreno was keen to distance his band from the whole Korn/Nu Metal genre. Strange then that this is without a doubt their most regressive and Korn influenced album to date.
From the opener of Needles and Pins I could barely believe what I was listening to. The song which is loaded with uncomfortable, self conscious dynamic shifts had not a hook in sight and Chino’s trademark distorted mic sound now seems to obscure little more than random growling and wailing. Hexagram takes a little more of a mellow Smashing Pumpkinsesque feel but basically is more of the same random jangling and vocalising.
The problem lies in that the Deftones guitar style has always taken the approach of full chords, played hard, with a compressed distorted tone. This worked well on their fledgling effort, but here were they seem to be determined to make everything as down tuned as possible, it just sounds messy, imprecise and not very catchy.
Their so called best song ever ‘Minerva’ and angular slabs like ‘Bloody Cape’ and ‘Good Morning Beautiful’ contain flashes of their previous greatness but overall it just isn’t there. Sure, the production by the ubiquitous Terry Date is pounding, with the bass drum pulsing through just as clear as day but that just isn’t enough. Where are the dynamic changes and heart stopping riffs that littered their earlier efforts? Where is the invention? Where is the musicianship? Gone. Replaced with path of least resistance, sludgy, boring riffs and pointless vocal freakouts.
Sorry guys, I just can’t recommend this. Buy any of their previous albums first.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (PS2)
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell (PS2)

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What if I go in noisy?, 19 May 2003
Splinter Cell is for my money the first really solid title in the Tom Clancy range. Obviously marketed as a rival to the stealth and cinematics crown held by Metal Gear Solid 2, S.C. pitches itself at the audience with a far less bizarre, convoluted and other-worldly bent and gets straight to the point launching you into the world of special forces/espionage hard-nut Sam Fisher.
The game ingratiates itself to you immediately by giving you a brief but effective tutorial allowing you to perform each of Sam’s basic abilities and filling in some of the story line as you go. From the outset you will be gripped by just how cool Sam looks and sounds (thanks to the vocal talents of Michael Ironside). His black suit, night vision gear and cat-like grace make Raiden from MGS2 look like a wet ponce!
The different athletic manoeuvres and range of equipment on offer from the outset of the game make it clear that there will be numerous paths to each goal and how you achieve them is up to you. Once into the proper missions, for the most part this seems to be true. Although the beautifully drawn, breathtakingly textured locations are basically linear (a la Max Payne and the Getaway) you can play it in your own style. You can choose to play carefully, shooting out the lights, keeping yourself well hidden and incapacitating your foes without actually killing them, or you can play risky revealing your position to deal out brutal head shots and using your oponents as human shields to inflict even more casualties. The choice is yours.
The learning curve is gentle but not annoyingly easy. From the outset you can tell that the makers of the game want you to complete it, they don’t want you to be stuck on one bit for three months, get fed up and exchange it for Vice City! As your tasks become slightly more complex, it is to the developers credit that they have managed to bring in a bit of variety. A game which has little cut-scene padding and is basically just sneak from point A to B laying out anyone who gets in your way could be boring but not so with Splinter Cell. One mission may involve a quick no-holds barred infiltration, while in the next the story line may preclude you from killing anyone. Coupled with this the environments are pleasantly varied and much of the scenery can be interated with. This game demonstrates the serious next gen physics which we have now come to expect from games.
I think, however that the ultimate selling point of this game is gadgets. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a thrilling array of toys in a game. From remote control guns, CCTV cameras and proximity mines to Sam’s multi-purpose assault rifle, camera jammer, rappelling rope and night vision, there is enough here to keep James Bond up at night... sweating.
I am trying to think of something bad to say about S.C. to wind this up, but as I can’t I shall leave you by saying that this is indeed MGS2 without all the padding. It’s fun from start to finish, the controls feel like second nature in a matter of minutes and it contains some of the best voice acting I’ve heard in a game for a while. It is cool. Very cool. If you are serious about your PS2 you need to play this one through.

Good Beneath Radar
Good Beneath Radar
Offered by music_by_mail_uk
Price: £4.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Underground English Experimentation., 15 May 2003
This review is from: Good Beneath Radar (Audio CD)
It shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that the Playwrights first album has come out on Sink and Stove Records. From the outset the label’s remit of producing non-flashy, unassuming, off-kilter musical skill with a very English flavour is stamped all over this album from the atmospheric, chiming opener to the self-made remix outro.
‘Good Beneath the Radar’ is bright and engaging from the outset. It comes accross as easily accessible with Aaron Dewey's honest, choir-boy vocals floating atop a collage of harmonising complex guitar playing, chord filled bass and occasional syth twiddling. Yet it should be made clear that this is no pop album. The metaphorical and evocative lyrics never stray far from darkly cryptic and the bizarre chord shapes and irregular time signatures will challenge you rather than just keep your foot tapping. That said, there are moments on here where the Playwrights succeed in writing engaging pop songs. ‘The Me Decade’ for example weaves a simple classic vocal and violin melody over effortlessly airy acoustic guitar riffing and spacious bass accompaniment.
For the most part the album’s mix is clear and tastefully assembled and although the production has a strong sense of DIY there is a real sense of care and attention put into the way the sounds have been captured. For example just listen to the echoing old-skool keyboard melody over twanging Fender guitar refrains in ‘The National Missing Person’, the forboding sample in ‘…Satellite Town’ or the flailing twisted indie of ‘Keeler Squared’. To their credit the Playwrights have managed to capture these songs just as they desired in an experimental and playful manner. You have to ask yourself whether the management pressures of a big money record deal would have allowed this degree of creative freedom to steer away from traditional pop and rock templates.
If you are interested in honest British music you could do a lot worse than invest in this. It’ll have a proud place in your CD collection for many years to come.

Price: £21.89

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cult Gem from a Transitional Time., 7 April 2003
This review is from: Heartwork (Audio CD)
Marking the time when things started to go slightly wrong for Carcass this album, perhaps sadly, underlines just how much they could have been capable of had the continued. On Heatwork the band finally got the lavish production which was necessary to provide definition to their detuned, yet intricate guitar playing and they honed the catchiness of their songs whilst shortening the over-long widdle-fests which punctuated the previous album (Necrotism - Descanting the Insalubrious). However it was perhaps most important of all that they stepped out from under the constrictive shadow of their pseudo-pathological lyrics and made themselves just a little more palatable.
When the album arrived in 1994 heavy metal was undergoing a rather self-conscious, management assisted transformation from biker jacket wearing, buffant dandruff shaking passe into something a little more streetwise that you wouldn't be ashamed to tell prospective girlfriends that you were into. Perhaps it was this forced change that caused Carcass to lose a guitar player immediately after this release and then to split up shortly after releasing Heartwork's follow up.
History aside there are some dazzling moments on here which walk the three borders between catchy, aggressive and tehnically excellent. See Buried Dreams as case in point. Awesome toiling guitar riffs combined with vocals which although gutteral are also deciferable certainly hit the spot. This song is also in my opinion one of the best split guitar solos of the last twenty years. The title track too is a work of excellence which although sounds a lot like Kreator’s ‘Coma of Soul’ certainly, at the time, brought something fresh to the genre.
I have heard purists deriding Carcass’s later work as betraying their grindcore roots. This accusation was particularly levelled at Mr Bill Steer who was one of the founding members of Napalm Death. For me however I have always felt that Carcass were more suited to the smooth tones and technically impressive guitar playing on display here than the rough, lo-fi grind of Symphonies of Sickness and Reek of Putrefaction.
For those searching for an education in where bands like Machinehead, Static X, Fear Factory and Slipknot evolved from. You could do a lot worse than look here. Because folks, British rock music doesn’t begin and end with Coldplay.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 8, 2008 5:07 PM BST

Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (PS2)
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (PS2)
Offered by CDandVinyl
Price: £7.75

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Get over here... again., 24 Feb. 2003
Many years have passed since I've been moved to even give a second glance to a Mortal Kombat game. During the nineties the franchise demonstrated the economic effect of diminishing marginal returns to spectacular effect by releasing a series of increasingly bilge titles. When the first game arrived in the arcades few impressionable under 30's could fail to be impressed by the digitised 2D graphics and crude but nasty fatalities. However the concept of gruesome finishing moves was truly rubbed in the public's face over the next three installments. All gore, no substance, no good.
So I was understandably uneasy with my decision to buy MK Deadly Alliance. Having bought Virtua Fighter 4 recently and tired of it quickly I started to wonder if I'd just set fire to forty quid.
Diving straight into the 2 player mode I was relieved to see that certain magazine preview fears about indistinct contact and the use of 3D being a 'token gesture' had either been rectified in late development or were unfounded. Amid the beautifully over-the-top but somehow slightly realistic looking graphics the blows connect... hard. Screen shuddering, bloody running down your forearms hard. The game also displays from the outset the use of depth which has become the staple of 128 bit 3D fighting games. Side-step, roll away, and 3D offensive moves are all in place and respond beautifully.
The makers of the game seem to have struck a good balance here. There is enough science and tactics to please hardcore beat em up gamers but yet novices can get stuck in quickly and make it look and feel dramatic onscreen. MK nostalgists too are catered for. Scorpion still goes 'get over here!', Shang Tsung still sucks... souls that is. And series favourites such as Sub Zero and Kano are present alongside charismatic newcomers such as the comely Lei Mei and the cool-as-mince Blind Kenshi.
I am happy to report that the emphasis on fatalities has been removed in favour of a fighting system, which is far more spectacular. My particular favourite aspect is the use of combos, which straddle the different fighting styles. For example, Sonja lays of blows in two different forms of Kung-fu before ending by raining blows onto her opponent using her flat wooden fighting sticks, and all the time copious amounts of claret are splashed around!
The arenas, although excellently rendered are not particularly exciting, but believe me this a small negative. The fighting action looks so dramatic and engaging that you would hardly notice if it were a blank background.
I would state that as a one player game MKDA has as little longevity value as all other beat em ups I've played but this of course is just personal opinion. The AI here is pretty impressive and the slightly more tactical, drawn-out bouts make this far more interesting than the normal ten seconds of impregnable combos and camp Japanese special moves.
A return to form for the franchise. But please guys, don't make any more movies!

The Getaway (PS2)
The Getaway (PS2)
Offered by CDandVinyl
Price: £8.14

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse of the future but a sniff of the past., 30 Jan. 2003
This review is from: The Getaway (PS2) (Video Game)
Opinion on The Getaway is at the very least polarised violently. You either love it or hate it. One other reviewer said that the Getaway would have been great 5 years ago. Although it is undeniable that the time this game has spent being tweaked, rewritten, altered and generally stalled has kicked it back from the status of a landmark title to something which has clearly dissapointed many people it still has some very strong plusses. So perhaps not 5 years late, but certainly 1 year late.
Okay, so if you are looking to pay your money and revisit the cathartic pleasures of GTA3 and Vice City forget it. The Getaway isn't free roaming. If as I have, you followed the development of this game, it is embarassingly obvious that it was meant to be. But they couldn't pull it off. But no disrespect guys, you can pick your own route through the streets of London. As you do so you will notice things are impressively bustling and busy and there are a good (but not great) selection of cars on the roads. However, in the heat of a car chase, don't try to abandon your vehicle and stealth-it to the next waypoint on foot. The game isn't deep enough to allow you to find your own way to complete a mission. And to hammer this home your character can't heal out on the streets, neither can he jump, climb or enter non-mission buildings. The navigation system too (the cars indicators, erm... indicate where you should turn off next) discourages exploring.
The linearity of drive around, then do a Max Payne style infiltration then drive again etc etc soon strikes home, but don't worry because if you are anything like me you will by now have been seduced by the games strengths. You'll be enjoying the cheesy gangster speak, giving it stylish twin 9mm action and generally larging it in the beautifully drawn locations. I deny anyone not to dig the way our protagonist throws down an empty AK47 and draws his handguns. The lack of an energy bar too pleased me. It means that the tactical player may be able to reduce replaying each level 1000 times by taking it carefully.
I won't deny there are some clanging glitches in this game. Police cars disapear and reappear during chases, you target the wrong person frequently and stealthy movement is often hit and miss due to the less than fluid movement system (I keep posting references to the brilliant Extermination movement system on Amazon, why won't game developers listen to me?). Perhaps most ridiculously of all when your character leans against a wall to recover and the camera lurks behind his back, his rhythmic movement and heavy panting makes it look like he's... well you get the picture.
Anyway, enough from me. I nearly gave this 4 stars but can't quite justify it to myself. To conclude, yes it does contain glimpses of the future. Yes, it is well made enough to be enjoyable. Yes, if you've completed Vice City it's worth buying. But if you haven't, stop reading this right now.

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