Archive for December, 2011

A Night at the Movies

December 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Now I’m going to take a slightly different tract with this blog. Ordinarily before I’ve flitted between reviews and philosophy but I’ve been watching a few movies recently and I got myself a different idea. In amongst the great movies out in the world there are some truly breathtaking moments of cinematic brilliance just nestled away. I’m not talking about the best movies, the best actors or the best directors. I’m talking about specific scenes, speeches and moments that stay with you long after the end credits have rolled. So now, in no particular order, are my 4 greatest movie scenes of all time:

The Interrogation – The Dark Knight (2008)

Now this clip comes from one of my personal favourite movies of all time and epotimses for me exactly why the movie is as good as it is. It’s been quite some time since the start of the movie and we are treated to the first face-to-face encounter between The Dark Knight and The Clown Prince of Crime. With all the bad blood boiling between the yin and yang of the plot this was always going to be a pivotal point in the emotional and dramatic journey of the script and rests largely upon the skill of the actors and the quality of the writing. With the tension in crescendo since the start of the movie this is where it all comes to a peak, let me tell you, it does not disappoint. Heath Ledger and Christian Bale are perfectly pitched against one another and give such conviction to their diametrically opposed characters that you can feel the underlying aggression and psychoses coarsing through the screen. Bale as the crucially restrained upholder of the law and Ledger as the frenetically brilliant sociopath interplay so well until the breaking point of sudden violence that it genuinely does keep you on the edge of your seat, unsure as to what the hell they are going to do next, and whether The Joker really does have the ace to break Batman’s one rule. Arming them to add to this powerhouse of drama is Nolan’s brilliant script, epitomised in this scene summing up what the movie is really about. Are we all just slaves to social rules? Is morality a bad joke? Given the chance and that ‘one bad day’ would we truly just end up eating each other? The fact of the matter is we would have to wait until later in the movie to find out the real answers to these questions as, after a savage beating, The Joker poses his one last question to Batman – what choice will you make?

The Death of Oogway – Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Admitedly this is a totally different track from the other movie of 2008 on this list but this movie stands as a personal favourite of mine for asimple combination of factors: The jokes are funny and the action sequences are fucking awesome. However, despite this reason it is neither a hilariously funny nor an impressively action-packed scene that I have chosen. This is the single most heartfelt and beautiful scene in the whole damn film. For the entire narrative we are shown Oogway, this wise yet slightly mental turtle and the respect he commands from his pupil Master Shifu. Despite all the chaos, the danger and the hilarity Oogway remains calm and collected, having faith that fate has chosen the right path for them. Oogway is the sure thing, the last bastion and the levellng force that serves as the manic Shifu’s rudder. His death is such a pivotal point of this movie and is played brilliantly, not least by impressive voice performances (often difficult) from Dustin Hoffman and Randall Duk Kim, but mainly from the beauty of the score and the imagery. You do not expect him to die even as the lotus petals wash over him. One minute he is there and the next he is gone, leaving Shifu to wonder what happens next with only one piece of advice: “You must believe”.

Sloth – Se7en (1995)

Finally a release from outside of 2008. This is a scene I love to watch with other people who have not seen it before, purely for the look of shock on their faces. I won’t spoil it for anybody who has not seen it yet, suffice to say this is a moment, and a concept, which can haunt your dreams long after the big finale of this horror masterpiece. Pitt and Freeman have tailed the elusive killer for the past two murders (Gluttony and Greed) through days of rain and the cracks in their partnership are already beginning to show. Pitt’s anxious desperation to be one step ahead against Freeman’s more considered approach to detective work form the basis of most of the tension in this film but the sheer horror of this situation puts that to one side. They work together and pull focus onto their forensics. The photos, the samples, the reactions; all misdirection to that fateful moment when you realise just what this killer is capable of. Short of actually revealing the fate of the victim of Sloth I can’t really say much more about this clip, just know it is one of the only times I’ve ever been shocked watching a film (the other notable moment being the end of Saw) and still gets me every time.

Picard’s Speech – Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

It’s a good thing that a Shakespearean actor as renowned and talented as Patrick Stewart got the role of Picard because otherwise a) The series might not have made it this far an b) This particular scene would not be nearly as good. The raw passion, the sheer anger and the powerful elocution of Picard’s speech is played so beautifully, with each syllable spoken so pitch perfectly that you understand just why Picard made captain. For most of the film you have watched Picard slowly being driven to more and more desperate attempts to stop his White Whale, The Borg and when all hope is lost, so driven is he by his rage, that he would rather sacrifice his crew than admit defeat. The ordinarily calm, logical, reasoning and dignified Captain is reduced to a shallow maelstrom of vengance by his experience and, at this moment, he is forced to come face to face with that fact. From all encompassing shouts of wrath to the slower, more restrained venom with which he delivers his lines; Stewart occupies every single point on the emotional spectrum to perfectly portray a man in metldown. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the tail end of this scene where Picard realises the error of his ways but watch it if you get the chance, the poinancy with which he utters one of Moby Dick’s most beautfiul lines, ‘as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it’ is nothing short of beautiful, as his solemn redemption begins.

So there you have it: thriller, comedy, horror, sci fi. My four greatest movie moments and why I can watch them again and again. There would have been a list of five here and they would have been in order but they come around so fleetingly that I couldn’t possibly put them against one another and finding four was hard enough. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading and maybe it might make you think about your own movie moments and why they mean so much to you. Happy viewing.


The Misplaced Metalhead Volume Three

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Mosh! December 2011

Promoter: Mosh Winchester

Date: Saturday 3rd December 2011

Venue: The Railway, Winchester

Bands: Dendera, Codex Alimentarius, Ruins of Earth, Terrathorn

Unfortunately, due to other commitments, I managed to miss the epic metal night Mosh back in November and with a day of work, not a lot of sleep and Defenders of the Faith no more than two days previous I was definitely in danger of missing this one too. However, I took it upon myself to man the fuck up and get out there for another night of heaviness and, frankly, I’m glad I did.

A long way away from the huge proscenium arch and vast audience space of the Guildhall two nights before, it was fun returning to the dark and dingy back room of The Railway pub. The sprawling homeland of underground and undiscovered music, this specific venue holds some particularly fond memories for me and being back here after a two month abscence I was looking forward to some hardcore moshing in the tiny space.

Taking the stage first were Portsmouth band Dendera and they approached their set with an aggressive and powerful vigour which belied their position as opening support. You never expect to like the opener that much and, in my experience, I’m often pleasantly surprised by what I find. In this case such a sentiment would be an understatement. These guys fucking rocked. Vocalist Ashley Edison owned the stage with his powerful headbanging and awe-inspiring prescence, compounded by his voice simultaneously conjuring memories of the best of Bruce Dickinson and Tom Araya. The rest of the band made their mark too, with impressive fretwork by guitarist Steve Bain and bassist Gary Jones, but I couldn’t help but feel that they were more like background scenery to the power of their frontman, not least helped by their choice to wear almost entirely black onstage. Yes that is pretty metal, but without a bit of variety it’s just dull to look at. If you’re gonna be live, be live! At least add a fucking bullet belt or a band t-shirt guys, please. Looks aside musically these guys were as fucking tight as anything and the ferocious riffage gave the impression of a young, contemporary, rough around the edges Maiden. Admittedly there is scope to say these guys were sounding a little too like a Maiden tribute but, let’s face it, Maiden fucking rule. If no bands ever tried to sound like them then the metal industry would be dead on its arse. Fact.

Dendera have some serious talent going for them and their interaction with the audience was exactly the sort of thing that makes these bands worth seeing. If anything the small crowd watching the guys did let them down a bit as opposed to the other way round and I would love to see them stretch their metal muscles again to a larger crowd, really getting the reaction hard fucking rockers like these deserve.

Completely poles apart from the NWOBMH influenced rock out of Dendera came the second support; a Gothenburg styled six-piece in the form of the oddly named Codex Alimentarius (in the words of vocalist Stephen Bending ‘a fucking mouthful’). Now, getting this out of the way first – Bending personally earns a trophy for the night for looking the part of ‘Metal as Fuck’. Black boots, trousers, gloves, shirt, waistcoat and tie, bald head , epic facial hair and facial piercings – this guy lived, breathed and bled metal. The band themselves, true to the image of their frontman were equally metal as fuck and unleashed an assault on the sense leaving me in the mind of Slipknot’s Wall of Sound style of playing. This shit was brutal, uncompromising and without pretention. Guitarists Elliot Alderman-Broom, Stan Kemble and Tim Wright each brought their own piece of excellence to the formula with the polyphonic wash of guitar effects that the trio brought accompanied by the crushing rhythm of bassist Andrew Dicker and drummer Frank Dennis.

As raw, brutal, incredible and fucking metal as this band were though my mind kept occupying itself with one thought. Why three guitarists? Yes there are plenty of great bands out there sporting a three pronged guitar assault (the aforementioned Maiden included) but I couldn’t help but think that I’d seen the exact same levels of hardcore metal from a band sporting two. Maybe I’m being unfair, maybe the bass of a small venue sound system just drowned out the guitarist providing a rhythm line, I just could not get this thought out of my head, that with 3 guitars they could up that game just a little more. These guys were fucking awesome, don’t get me wrong, I just think by having that third guitarist they really need to prove themselves with a sound that can stand out. They’ve got the tools, let’s just see if the talent is there to match.

Now we come to a pretty difficult part of the review. Lead support act Ruins of Earth are fucking hard to review; not because their music is transcendental or anything, but because their lead singer Brian Turner was genuinely absent for the whole gig. This left us with the sight of a two guitar, bass and drum thrash band belting out the riffs and solos usually underscoring a well thought out and emotionally charged bellow of a furious frontman. The four remaining members did not disappoint at all though.

You don’t expect a band with this style of sound to come out with instrumentals that work, something in the formula just seems all wrong, but they genuinely did. These guys worked. These guys rocked. Each of the four remaining members were ferocious in their performance and made a mosh so fucking epic and easy that it was like I was watching one of the great established bands. Instrumentals are tricky at the best of times but this visceral assault was so untempered and unhindered by the emotional direction and focus of a lyric sheet that it allowed for me and the other rockers to put our own meaning there, our own emotion, and really feel the music on a whole different level. Hmm, whaddya know, turns out these guys weren’t difficult to review.

So now we come to headliners Terrathorn. As uncompromising and brutal as the supports had been Terrathorn proved to everybody why they were headlining by upping the ante just that little bit more. Vocalist James Hayball engrossed himself with his moshing crowd as seemlessly as a consumate professional, moving in and about them to puncture their music through to everybody and making sure not one was left behind. I know in a previous review I have derided the ‘singer offstage’ approach but this time it just seemed to work, maybe because it was more about the fans, about inclusion, about fun. Possibly the thing I will take most from Terrathorn’s set was their sense of fun in what they were doing, never once taking themselves too seriously (An approach, I must say, was one shared by each of the great bands tonight). Let’s face it, Metal can be pretty goofy, pretty silly sometimes and these guys knew that. They enjoyed themselves and, as a result, so did the fans.

That said they were not a fun-metal band in the vein of Tenacious D or Steel Panther, the thrash provided by the band made me reviewing them a bit tricky as I spent most of their gig windmilling and not watching the stage at all. They asked us to mosh, we moshed, on and on and on. Admittedly their penultimate song did go on a bit, meaning I didn’t have much left in the tank for their closer but once I heard the opening strains I knew I could summon the last gasp up. Finishing the gig with an ‘encore without leaving the stage’, Terrathorn gave the crowd what they wanted; a phenomenal cover of Metallica’s Battery which lead to a pit encompassing more of the floor than I think I’ve ever seen in The Railway.

It was truly the perfect end to an amazing night.

Summing Up:

Dendera: 8/10
Codex Alimentarius: 7/10
Ruins of Earth: ?/10 (Haven’t technically seen them live yet, otherwise 9/10)
Terrathorn: 9/10

The Misplaced Metalhead Volume Two

December 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Defenders of the Faith III

Promoter: Metal Hammer Magazine

Date: Saturday 1st December 2011

Venue: The Guildhall, Southampton

Bands: Trivium, In Flames, Ghost, Rise To Remain, Insense

Well this was a night I’m not going to forget in a long time. Arriving in Southampton by myself in the sodding rain I was not in the best of moods, not least because my cheap shoes had officially crapped out and I was struggling to feel my toes as the shoes filled with rainwater. Nevertheless, I powered on safe in the knowledge that for a meagre £25 (already spent) I would be seeing 5 bands including some of the biggest and best talent on the scene right now. I arrived at the venue, got in and waited patiently for the opening act to start.

Now Insense is a band I had  not heard of prior to their listing in the Metal Hammer advert so I was not too fussed about seeing them at first. That said, looking back on it, I am now a little pissed that the opening support started their set while I was disposing of my jacket in the cloakroom. I returned upstairs and found the Norwegian metalcore machine in full swing and getting the audience going for what promised to be a great night. Epitomising everything which is right about the metalcore genre, Insense brought a relentless, no-holds barred assault on the senses which left us hoping for more from their ever so short set. Particular highlights were Tommy Hjelm’s energetic vocal delivery and the unbridled ferocity of  Ola S. Hana’s basswork. Tarnished only by what I assume was a slight issue with monitors leading to some sloppy timings (making a decent headbang rhythm difficult) Insense proved their worth tonight and were perfectly placed to up the energy to fever pitch and lead us through to the rest of the gig.

With the energy now high enough to encourage some serious fucking moshing, we were then taken to an entirely new level with rising stars Rise To Remain. Unbridled is the best way I can describe the blistering set which followed. As soon as the young London metalcore outfit literally jumped onstage the room exploded with moshpits and headbanging left right and centre. The one thing that will stick with me as these boys played (besides the headbutt in the jaw when trying to help someone up in the pit) was the energy that vocalist Austin Dickinson and co brought to the stage. Jumping, running, headbanging and spinning around with all the relentless energy of a youthful band firing on all cylinders, Rise To Remain proved to everybody why the world is taking notice. With City of Vultures, Bridges Will Burn and Nothing Left bringing particular flare as some of their most recognisable songs, it’s clear that the boys are more than ready for the days when stadiums scream for them and, in my opinion, those days are not far off.

To bring the furious crowd into any more of a frenzy would’ve been nigh-on impossible so it was perfectly suited that Swedish wildcards Ghost were the next band to grace the stage. Far from the furious pitch set by Insense and Rise to Remain, Ghost instead took us down a dark and surreal path of utter theatricality. Outside of their existing fanbase, not much is known about Ghost except for their status as ‘James Hetfield’s favourite band’ and that they must be seen live instead of just listening to their album. Having now had the pleasure of seeing Ghost live I can honestly say I completely agree. As the 5 Nameless Ghouls entered the stage to the strains of a haunting melody we stood transfixed in wondering what was to follow. It was only when vocalist Papa Emeritus emerged in full Unholy Bishop garb and the opening bass riff of Con Clavi Con Dio began that we all knew we were in for something special. Ghost’s set cannot really be described as a metal gig but more of an act of theatre. Emeritus was truly hypnotising in his onstage persona, orchestrating the Nameless Ghouls and moving his whole body in an effortless glide, accentuating the majesty of this surreal blend of Swedish Doom Metal and performance art. Every movement painstakingly thought through, right down to the minutest flicks and adjstments of his Bishop’s robes with unprescedented precision and focus. With the sermon drawing to a close after 4 or 5 songs, Emeritus thanked us for joining them and finished with the haunting ‘Ritual’, reminding everyone in attendance, fans or otherwise, why these Swedish heathens are hot on the lips of some of the biggest names out there.

And so, from upstarts to rising stars and manic wildcards we come to what was, for many, the highlight of the night: Heavy Metal pioneers In Flames. Having been active since 1990, I don’t need to spend any time in this post describing In Flames, they have time and again proven their worth for over 20 years and tonight’s gig was a testament as to why they have lasted that long. As soon as they entered the entire crowd surged forward in palpable anticipation of what was to come. The five backlight sillhouettes of the Metal behemoth thundered through every single crushing track; double bass drums from Daniel Svensson sending a shockwaves right into our hearts and the guitar harmonies of Björn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin delivered with such fercious precision that the crowd erupted in ferocious pits and screams from our very souls. Earlier in the night Insense had shown us the new and emerging face of the Swedish metalcore scene but right here is where it all began. In Flames not only defined a genre but pretty much defined an entire generation and showed the world how it was to be done, none of the bands on tonight would be who they are now were it not for these guys and, even as someone who is not too familair with their work, you can see why. Uncompromising, brutal, brilliant. All summer up and ecapsulated in the closer ‘Take This Life’ which took the whole Guildhall into a Maelstrom of Metal.

Now you know you’re doing something right with your career when a band as established as In Flames are your lead support act. Trivium are the band with everything to play for on the metal scene right now with one half of the world hailing them as the saviours of metal and the other deriding them as shameless copycats. I, myself, am in the former camp and, having listened to latest album In Waves twice in the 48 hours preceding this gig, was looking forward to this one.

As the opening strains of Capsizing the Sea washed over the crowd we all knew what was coming and the Floridian foursome left us waiting just the right amount of time before launching into the brutal opener of In Waves, sending the room into a frenzy as we came together, screaming along. Following this blistering arrival to the stage each and every track was nothing short of perfect, an uncompromising plethora from Trivium’s entire back catalogue (including Ignition, a nod to the less than perfect third album which still had some pretty great bits) punctuated flawlessly by ‘Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation’ at the beginning of the gig and ‘Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr’ to close. Of course each of these songs encouraged some of the biggest pits I have ever been in, proving why these were the two specific tracks were the ones which brought Trivium to the wider public’s attention.

That said, the set was not one long mosh out and proves why Trivium have resonated with so many different people as there was a definite range on display. From the crushing ‘Dusk Dismantled’  with the whole audience screaming along through to the more sombre of ‘Departure’ and powerful love song ‘Dying in Your Arms’ the whole array was on display. Even in between songs Matt Heafy kept the crowd going with his positivity and commitment to the enjoyment of the fans. Constantly reminding us that this communal experience and our enjoyment was what they and the other bands played for, never once being too pretentious or taking themselves too seriously, even going so far as to deliberatly (I hope) fuck up the opening riff to Black a few times complete with clownesque ‘oops’ face.

With ‘Martyr’ finished Trivium left the stage and a few of us turned to leave but others knew better and it was not long before the guys were back and sent us off with an encore of ‘Down From the Sky’ and ‘Throes of Perdition’ in what had thusfar been a relatively Shogun-free gig.

So with that  it was time to head home. I was stiff, in pain, sweaty, hungry, cold, (Especially at Eastleigh station, Jesus) and my feet were still soaked. Despite all this the night was totally and utterly worth the money, the time, the travel and the pain. Metal is about being part of something greater than yourself and that night the pit and the people reminded me of that. The bands playing kept saying (With the obvious exception of Ghost who could not break character) to us that Britain was the first place to accept them and they truly felt that it was their favourite place to play. They were accepted, worshipped and genuinely happy there. Like them, I felt the same, like them, I was home.

Summing Up:

Insense: 8/10
Rise To Remain: 10/10
Ghost: 10/10
In Flames: 9/10
Trivium: 10/10