28 February 2008

Watchmen and some music

So it's about time for an update. The biggest thing right now is Alan Moore's Watchmen from 1986-87. I bought this (what a concept!) a little while back right after reading Batman: The Killing Joke, (see previous post) also written by Moore. It took me the better part of two days to read it; it's pretty darn thick.

Holy crap is it good.

I shouldn't be surprised, and I suppose I'm not. This book is revered as the best graphic novel ever by nearly everybody. The most outstanding aspect of it is the story itself; although mostly applicable during the Cold War, it still rings pretty true today, a sort of anti-war novel. It isn't a traditional one though. With all the main characters as masked vigilantes, genius pseudo-megalomaniacs and nuclear demigods battling themselves and each other over how (and whether) to protect humanity, it could hardly be traditional.

In a sort of documentary about Moore called The Mindscape of Alan Moore, the genius writer describes the inherent link between art and magic. What this man has wrought in Watchmen is a perfect example of magic by his definition, which is something that changes a person's perception of reality (I think that's what it was anyway, I'm paraphrasing). I will probably never look at comics the same way again, nor life in general. This is the sort of thing that makes people form opinions.

Okay. On to some music.

Diablo Swing Orchestra - The Butcher's Ballroom
I've heard these guys mentioned quite a few times before, but didn't bother checking them out until yesterday. I shouldn't have waited. DSO's style is an amalgam of metal, classical, and I guess some sort of bluegrass or something. This is their only full album so far, I haven't listened their EP. Seeing as I've only listened through this album once I can't give a very in depth review, but I definitely recommend it.

Ween - 12 Golden Country Greats
Ween is a peculiar band. I haven't heard a whole lot of their stuff an most of it hasn't really interested me. However, Devin Townsend likes them so that's enough for me. Also this is a great piece of work. It's in the musical style of country as the title suggests, but instead of the subject matter dealing with tractors and beer coupled with heartbreak, pictures are painted with sci-fi and satire. The parental advisory on the front shouldn't be ignored, as there are some pretty awesome lyrics. It's a fun album.

Samael - Solar Soul
Yet another black metal turned avant-garde band. These guys aren't quite as out there as Ulver or Manes, but they're definitely good. This music is more industrial metal than anything, sort of sounding like Rammstein (although I don't really listen to them at all, and this is much more complex). It has symphonic elements as well, hearkening back to their roots. It's even catchy. Again I've only heard this once so far, but it stuck out of the many titles I've been going through of late.

I'm listening to it again now, and I just noticed that the vocals kind of sound like those in Celtic Frost's latest release, Monotheist, which is an awesome album by the way.

Stam1na - Uudet Kymmenen Käskyä
Finland has recently come out of obscurity in the music world due to Lordi's almost miraculous entry and win in Eurovision a little while back. This oddly named group here has also ridden pretty high on the charts, and for good reason. This is some pretty darn catchy metal; a little similar to french act Scarve, and with a few elements close to Strapping Young Lad. They're a lot more catchy though, a little mainstream sounding with all the production; not nearly as brutal as those two bands. Still it's very very enjoyable stuff.

Now for the heavy stuff \m/

Pig Destroyer - Prowler in the Yard
Just from the name you can imagine the brutality contained in this music, never mind the cover art. Pig Destroyer is a grind-core band, a genre that came from a melding of hardcore punk and death metal. The songs are short and fast. Unrelentingly psyche-scratching. The intro is read to us by the ubiquitous "Bob" computer voice. He describes a scene with two women engaged in some form of off perversion watched by a group of people who have no idea what to do about it. Then the music begins, and only those desensitized to onslaughts of musical brutality will keep listening. I love it. The vocals are, as expected, incomprehensible, but I checked some out and found this section of verse:
Certain things fascinate me.
First I went blind and then the sun went out.
The way you hold a match so steady.
How heaven is collapsing under so much joy.
I love that stuff like this can be so obscured by its presentation; I think it's beautiful. Beautiful brutality. The album ends with a return to Bob's monotone delivery of a conclusion to the weird tangle discussed in the intro. I won't describe it as it's quite graphic, and should only be beheld in its original form, if you're willing to try it.

I've listened to a ton of other stuff recently, but these were the standouts. Unfortunately much of what I try doesn't really get me at all, but I'll sometimes come back to it and see what I was missing. I think that's a common tale.

19 February 2008

Batman: The Killing Joke

It seems my foray into comic land continues. DC has put out some darned good stuff, and I haven't really looked at much of it. The recent drama with Heath Ledger's death prompted me to read up on The Dark Knight, and apparently both Batman Begins and this upcoming film are largely based on The Long Halloween, which I will be reading shortly. Ledger's character also draws from this comic.

This is fantastic. Better than the previous comic I reviewed, I think. It has the whole origin thing for The Joker, which I always like, and partially for that reason he's given a much more human face; I use the term "face" in a metaphorical sense of course, he's still the ghastly nightmare we all love. Anyway, you really empathize with The Joker, as his story plays out as a sad, unfortunate one. The overall feel of the book is quite dark, altough not nearly as much as Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth for example, which I read a while back. That was quite a trip.

This kind of adult-comic style is very alluring to me. For some reason I think I'm enjoying comics more now than I did as a kid; of course I've only just started, and these are pretty much the cream of the crop.

I am very much looking forward to The Dark Knight. RIP Heath Ledger.

18 February 2008

Superman: Doomsday

It's been a long time since I watched anything related to the animated realm of superheroes. The new wave of live-action films has sort of reduced the splendor of those seemingly childish things. However, this 2007 direct-to-video film is nothing to scoff at at which to scoff.

I didn't even know about this until yesterday when I was looking up information on Adam Baldwin, better known to most people (at least around here) as Jayne Cobb of Firefly. The reason I was looking him up was because I was going through Half-Life 2: Episode 2 again to listen to the commentary, and noticed a familiar voice coming from one the resistance fighters. Sure enough, Jayne's in the game. I also saw this film under his filmography, so good ol' Wikipedia led me to this gem.

Anyway. I remember way way back in the Warsaw NY library one day, I found this comic book called The Death of Superman. I've never been up-to-date with any comic books, and I'm pretty sure my mom wouldn't have let me borrow it. I read through a bunch of it crouching next to the comic box. It looked really cool then, and I've always remembered one of the opening panels, where a be-goggled Doomsday crushes a little bird in one gargantuan hand. That scene isn't present in the film sadly, but there are similar moments.

I was worried that the second half that deals with the rebirth of Superman wouldn't be as entertaining as the somewhat-ultimate battle between the red-caped behemoth and his spiky bane. My worry was for naught; it was quite entertaining. The semi-evil Superman clone was more bad-ass than the genuine article.

Altogether, Superman: Doomsday was a much better experience than what I remember of the animated series. Although it wasn't nearly as graphic as it could have been, there was actually blood and a small amount of watered-down swearing, making it much more believable. The ever-present cheese factor did make a few appearances. I really enjoyed it though. Adam Baldwin did a great job voicing the man of steel.

They should really consider doing this storyline for the next live-action incarnation. It would seriously own.


I just read through the comic book I remembered; it's actually a collection of comics in series. It was awesome; so much more intense than the movie. Doomsday is the embodiment of metal. Apparently Superman's rebirth is part of a different story arc not covered in The Death of Superman. Superman: Doomsday is quite a simplification of the original story, but I think they did a good job of it anyway.