Blog Flume

I am a multimedia designer and aspiring writer from Central Illinois who dreams of bigger things. You are entering the hub of my online world. Welcome. Make yourself at home, read some stuff, click a few things, maybe check out my online portfolio. And of course, if you enjoy your stay, please subscribe.

*NOTE* This blog occasionally contains coarse language. Please use discretion when viewing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Lovecraftian Christmas tale

Those of you who are Lovecraft fans like me will definitely appreciate this creative and hilarious Lovecraftian twist on the 12 Days of Christmas. It's a short story written by Eric Lis; this story was published in Weird Tales magazine in 2008, and this particular reading was broadcast on the Drabblecast podcast by Norm Sherman.
The link you are about to click on will launch the high quality 15-minute sound clip on YouTube. It's 15 minutes you'll be glad you invested.
My True Lovecraft Gave To Me
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

More HPL short summaries

Once again, SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!!!

Celephais - This story is, I suppose, part of the Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft. In it a man, called Kuranes in his dreams (we know not what his real name is), becomes obsessed with his dream world, where life is so much nicer and more exciting than the real world. He begins spending more and more time asleep, visiting a city called Celephais that seems to represent a cross between Arabian Nights and King Arthur. Anyway, he starts taking drugs to spend more time in the dream world and eventually, in the real world, ends up a penniless junkie. A knight comes to him in real life at the end to escort him to Celephais so he can rule as their king and god. Kuranes goes with him, where he rules for all eternity. Meanwhile, his mortal body is found smashed on the rocks below a high sea cliff. Meh. I don't really like the dream world stuff. At least, not so far. However, this is a notable story for being the first mention of Innsmouth (though a diffferent Innsmouth, as it's set in the UK) and it's the origin of Kuranes, who will make a brief appearance later in "Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath" (which, as Lovecraft's longest work and a dream world story, I am dreading reading).

Cool Air - One of the first stories few stories I read in this collection, "Cool Air" still endures as one of my favorites. A guy who lives in this boarding house in New York develops an interest in (and a budding friendship with) the tenant above him, who turns out to be a scientist suffering from a malady that requires him to constantly be in a climate controlled atmosphere. To that end, he has invented air conditioning, using an ammonia-based cooling system. As time goes on, he requires cooler and cooler temperatures to maintain his health. In the end we find out it's because he's a zombie and he's begun rotting. It's very cleverly and descriptively written. I really like this story. I've read it twice so far and also listened to a fantastic reading provided by the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast. I imagine this will be one of the first stories I will reread after completing my journey through all HPL's writings.

The Curse of Yig - I covered this one here.

Dagon - An American prisoner of war escapes from a German u-boat and gets lost at sea. After drifting in and out of consciusness, he awakens and finds himself on what he can only surmise is an incredibly large, sludgy segment of ocean floor that has broken off and floated to the surface. He gets out and explores his surroundings. Eventually he finds a great crevasse, which he scales downward to find the facade of an enormous temple. As he watches, an ancient, cyclopean monster comes to worship at the monolithic temple. After it leaves, the man makes his way back to his boat, but his mind has snapped and he remembers little. Waking in a hospital, he is told he was found afloat in his escape boat, where there is no sign of any chunks of the ocean floor floating on the water. But he knows it was real. And it scares him almost to the point of insanity to believe that there is possibly a race of great, monstrous beasts under the sea worshiping gods of their own. Meh. It was OK. I prefer "The Temple" when it comes to undersea adventures, but we'll get to that one later. Considered together, I think the two stories complement one another nicely, and when you throw in "The Call of Cthulhu" as well, so far that's a nice collection of stories that might have a deeper (no pun intended) relationship with one another.

As always, thanks for reading. Subscribe!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More short attention span HPL summaries

Once again - SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!!!

The Book - A guy finds a crazy old book at a messy secondhand bookstore. The proprietor refuses to take payment for it, seemingly relieved to simply be rid of the thing. The man takes the book home and studies it in his attic room dedicated to studying strange stuff. Crap gets weird. He looks at it more and crap gets weirder. Eventually crap gets so weirdthat during one of his readings/rituals the walls melt away and he finds himself in another reality, flying over an ancient stone city. That's pretty much it. I guess Lovecraft initially meant this to be the beginning of a larger story that would essentially be a prose version of his wonderful and hypnotic poem "Fungi from Yuggoth." Then he decided it was shit and ceased his effort. Kind of a shame; I liked it so far. Oh well.

The Call of Cthulhu - Quintessential Lovecraft piece introducing the Old Ones, particularly Cthulhu, to the world. Let's do a very boiled-down summary for this one. Part I: Guy inherits a chest full of stuff that points toward existence of some sort of supernatural force in the world, including a small idol of undetermined origin, construction and significance. Part II: Guy reads account of an explorer who finds two cults on opposite sides of the world and opposite ends of the technological spectrum which worship the same primordial being, represented by the aforementioned diminutive idol. Part III: After years of trying in vain to discover more about these clues, the guy finally stumbles upon the newsaper account that ties everything together in a horrible realization: Cthulhu does indeed sleep in the sunken sity of R'lyeh. And he is stirring, signifying that he will waken for good very soon. And when he does, if his cultists are to be believed, all the world as we know it will be devoured and a new aeon will begin, wherein the Old Ones will once again reign over all the universe. Great story. Read it.

The Cats of Ulthar - This one reminds me of a children's story, kind of like a tale by the Brothers Grimm. Could be at home in a collection with Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin and the Pied Piper of Hamelin. In this story, an old couple loves to torture and kill the cats of their neighborhood. Cat owners are, therefore, very careful to keep their feline companions indoors. When a band of Gypsies comes through town, no one thinks to tell them about the disgusting habits of the town's most hated (and feared) couple. After they kill a little orphan Gypsy boy's beloved kitten, he casts a Gypsy spell and all the cats get together to attack and devour the old couple. It's a revenge tale with cute little ears and tiny pink toes. I read it to my kids a while back, and my 10-year-old son seemed to like it as much as I.

That's it for now. More to come soon. Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 10, 2012

New IT Manager #7

The scariest part is that his absence leaves Beaker in charge of Muppet Labs.

Friday, December 7, 2012

An Atheist's Christmas Blessing

I wrote the following diatribe as a response to a Facebook friend's post about how much he loathes Christmas and what a scam it is. The gentleman in question and myself attended the same Baptist church when we were children, and we both have long since left the church and the supernatural world behind in favor of the pursuit of logic and science...

I consider myself an atheist, but I am an atheist who celebrates Christmas. For sake of argument, let's agree that everything you said above is completely accurate. With all that having been said, isn't there *something* special in the air this time of year?

Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's just nostalgia for the great Christmas memories of my childhood - family, good times, a feeling of unity with others, sweet and soothing music, pretty lights and bows, a cozy blanket on a cold, snowy day, the eagerness and magic of awaiting Christmas morning.

Maybe it's all that bundled into one magical month, along with the desire to leave my own children with magical memories of their own to treasure and pass down to their children.

But there's something... There's something in the strains of "Silent Night" that really makes my heart want to burst its seams when I hear a multitude of serene, reverent voices singing it in breathy unison, in a sanctuary full of lit candles. It's not unheard of for me to get a bit teary-eyed by the third verse or so. It could be a result of the mass mentality. It could be all those things I mentioned above flooding my brain at once, creating a tsunami of an emotional overload.

Some would say it's a beneficent, supernatural, holy deity trying to push its way through and make its presence known in my heart, and they would pray for me to accept it. It'll never happen. I'm too scientifically minded and rooted in PROOF = TRUTH to trust much of anything on faith alone, or even that coupled with the "evidence" detected by my own feeble, fallible, manipulable mind. But is it so bad for those people to want that for me?

I readily accept people's prayers these days when they feel that I am in need of them. There's no harm to me, and it comforts those people to put their faith in a higher power.

Many horrible things have been done in the past in the name of religion. John Hinckley shot Reagan in the name of Jodie Foster; I have nothing against Jodie Foster.

Many wonderful things have also been done for humanity in the name of religion. Despite the "sordid past" (and present) of many churches, most of the churchgoing people I know are wonderful, trustworthy, non-judgmental, generous and pleasant people to work and socialize with. I can’t bring myself to attend a weekly church service because when I do I feel like sort of a wolf in sheep’s clothing; I feel like I’m dishonestly representing myself as something I’m not.

But I’m perfectly willing to let down my protective walls a bit during this time of the year, take part in the showmanship and trappings of the season, and enjoy a little bit of Christmas spirit. I happily gather with family, friends and loved ones to exchange gifts and make joyful memories that will endure for years to come. And whenever possible I take my family to a late night Christmas Eve service where we completely enshroud ourselves with a sometimes overwhelming flood of feelings of camaraderie, love, forgiveness, selflessness and joy.

It may all be an illusion, but damn it, it’s a magical one that I’m happy to perpetuate. And from one atheist to another, I am dreadfully sorry that you seem to have lost the ability to be in touch with that magic.

Monday, December 3, 2012

New IT Manager #6


 
#Skyfall was freaking awesome, so I had to dedicate a week to my most favorite 007 ever. Daniel Craig, you kick ass!

This weekend: Peoria Ballet presents The Nutcracker

Seats remaining for the Dec 8 show as of this morning (Dec 3) are shown in blue.
If you are in the Peoria-Bloomington area and need a dose of culture or Christmas spirit, head on over to Ticketmaster.com and purchase some tickets for Peoria Ballet's 30th annual presentation of The Nutcracker. There are two shows only -- Saturday December 8 at 7:30 PM and Sunday December 9 at 2:00 PM. Tickets start at only $10, and they're going FAST, especially for the Saturday evening show!


Seats remaining for the Dec 9 show as of this morning (Dec 3) are shown in blue.
Come see my kids and me perform in this seasonal show that has become a holiday tradition in Peoria.
Start a tradition with your own family! Ring in each Christmas season with the premiere classical ballet of the yuletide season.

This year's production features many brand new costumes, all new choreography, and a brand new backdrop that the ballet acquired thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign that I helped put together!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Short-Attention Span HPL summaries

SPOILERS! SPOILERS!

Ever wonder what all the hubbub is about H.P. Lovecraft stories, anyway? Curious, but never cracked one open yourself? Tried a few times but couldn't get past the style or outmoded language? Here be spoilers. I will attempt to summarize and review each one I've read in two to three succinct sentences, something of which I believe Lovecraft himself was likely incapable.

The Alchemist - A guy living on his family estate is cursed as his family has been for generations, hunted and haunted by an enemy of his ancestors, an alchemist who, centuries earlier, learned the secret of eternal life. Not very good. I suspect he wrote it as a young teen.

The Beast in the Cave - Find this review here.

Beyond the Wall of Sleep - A guy mind melds with an apparently crazy Indian who goes to distant realms in his dreams, and he soon realizes they are actually astrally projecting themselves several astronomical units into the heavens and becoming some sort of star-eating cosmic mega-beings. Not a bad story. I kinda dig this one. Not scary at all, more like straight sci-fi with a disturbing image or two (and a fair bit of that endearing Lovecraftian racism) along the way.

That's it for now. This is going to take a while, but it's way more efficient than spending a whole entry on each one.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

HPL update

I am three months into my sojourn of the fantastical and weird. By that I of course am referring to my venture to read the complete works of HP Lovecraft.

I have read several stories at this point (favorites indicates with asterisks):

• The Alchemist
• The Beast in the Cave
• Beyond the Wall of Sleep
• The Call of Cthulhu*
• The Cats of Ulthar*
• Cool Air
• The Curse of Yig*
• Dagon
• The Doom That Came to Sarnath
• The Dreams in the Witch-House
• The Electric Executioner
• The Evil Clergyman
• Ex Oblivione
• Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family
• The Festival
• From Beyond*
• The Haunter of the Dark*
• Herbert West: Re-Animator*
• The Hound
• The Music of Erich Zann*
• The Nameless City
• Nyarlathotep
• Pickman's Model*
• The Picture in the House*
• The Rats in the Walls*
• The Statement of Randolph Carter*
• The Strange High House in the Mist
• The Terrible Old Man*
• The Tree
• The White Ship
• Winged Death

So much already read. I am really enjoying this collection. And to help me slog through the tales that don't quite tickle my fancy the way some do, I always do a wrap up session after each story with the corresponding episode of the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast, at hppodcraft.com. I've become quite fond of Chad Fifer and Chris Lackey.

Lots of reading done, but so much more to be done. And miles to go before I sleep...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

New IT Manager #4

So I had to put up a second name plate this week because I let a coworker take the previous one home with him after his last day on the job. Evidently it was Wil Wheaton's last day on the job as well.
 
Our newest IT Manager comes to us straight from Latveria, and he gives new meaning to the phrase "ruling with an iron fist."
 
 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

New IT Manager #2


Yeah, your supervisor... Is just a kiss away. He's just a kiss away.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

HPL Review: The Call of Cthulhu

I really liked this story. It's one of the dozen or so longer stories Lovecraft wrote, coming it at around 11,000 words or so, I believe. Not a huge undertaking, but with my busy schedule it took me about four sittings to get through it.

The story is told in three chapters. It is told through a manuscript left behind by a man named Francis Wayland Thurston, who details how he slowly put together pieces of various stories and news accounts to make a horrible discovery.

In part one we're slowly introduced to the idea that something weird has been going on. Thurston is called upon to rummage through his deceased granduncle's belongings, whereupon he inadvertently unearths evidence that unrelated people all over the world seem to have had similar nightmares on the same specific dates. He also finds a curious little statuette of a winged, crouching, tentacle-faced creature, bearing unrecognized symbols or writing. Notes accompanying it name the figure represented as "Cthulhu."

In part two we delve further into the notes and discover in the piles memoirs of a man named Inspector Legrasse, who made some related and similarly disquieting discoveries of his own. It seems that a swamp cult in Louisiana and a remote tribe halfway across the globe not only seemed to worship this same heretofore unknown (to Legrasse) deity or eldritch being named Cthulhu, but they also performed the same exact rites in the same exact, unknown language.

In part three we learn the story of a sailing ship which encountered opposition during one of its voyages. Presumably, they were attacked by pirates. In reality the opposing ship had been trying to not only same themselves and the other ship, but indeed all of reality by keeping the other ship from proceeding.

No spoilers, but I have to say this is one of my favorite stories yet of this collection. As I say, it's a bit longer but still easily doable. Any HPL fan has no excuse for not having read this one. I'm ashamed it's taken me until I'm 38 to do it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

New IT Manager #1

As my workplace is currently sans a manager in the IT department, I thought I'd have a bit of fun with the guys over there. When no one was looking I created a new nameplate for outside the doorway of the vacant office.

Productivity has really stepped up since they never know if he's waching them. He keeps using that damned One Ring.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween hijinks abound on Draw Something

In honor of my favorite day of the year, all of my Draw Something drawings today were done with a Halloween theme. Here are a bunch, along with a few other recent Halloween-/horror movie-themed drawings, just to maintain the spirit of the season. Enjoy!

FOULBALL

CARRIE

JUGGLE

SNAIL

TRASHCAN

WHISKERS
 
BATHROBE

DOLL

FARM

GOBLIN

POPCORN
 
Don't forget! You can stay updated on my latest Draw Something masterpieces at http://mcgrawshane.tumblr.com
 

 
 
 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

 
http://thewaltdisneycompany.com/disney-news/press-releases/2012/10/disney-acquire-lucasfilm-ltd

So long, Vader. It was nice knowin' ya.

Disney is un-friggin-stoppable. It's like that crazy Playstation game Katamari. Pixar, Marvel (I died a little that day too) and now Lucasfilm... What will that monstrosity of a Hollywood juggernaut devour next?

Three new Star Wars movies? Really? Why, for God's sake? Well, I don't care what they say. They won't be canon.

And let's not forget Indiana Jones. Any plans there, Disney? Actually, Lucas did a good job on his own of screwing up that franchise. It could use some fresh life.

If they remake Labyrinth I'll scream, I swear to God.

Bastards.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Lord of Steel rises to the throne

OK, so this is the last I'll blog specifically about this album. Please indulge me one last time, and I swear you'll never need to hear one more time about The Lord of Steel.

I finally got hold of the retail version tonight--not gonna say where, but let's just say it was a great deal. (And not a SPECK of guilt, mind you.) Let's give it a spin:

1. The Lord of Steel - Still a quite solid track. Great mid-to-fast tempo, almost thrash-type song (reminiscent of "The Power") with an incredible riff that really grabs you. The lyrics are among the least silly on the album. Makes a decent title track and introduction to the album's direction.

2. Manowarriors - Definitely sounds better with this mix, that much is undeniable. Once again, Joey's fuzzy bass is appropriately buried, popping out every now and then for the spotlight. I still dislike the song, but not as much as before. I just really hate that one line, "Never gonna change our style, gonna play tonight for quite a while..." Oh, and I'm not crazy about "We come from different countries with metal and with might, we drink a lot of beers and play our metal loud at night" either. This song seems more camp than metal anthem. As an offhanded aside, Karl Logan's solo reminds me of Vinnie Vincent (what ever happened to that guy?)

3. Born in a Grave - HOLY SHIT! YES! The intro alone is a major improvement. I wish they'd have hit that single clock strike a bit harder after the whispered intro, and of course they drag out the chorus a few too many times at the end, but everything else about this tune is EPIC. This is what I'm talking about! ...And they finally figured out a decent way to end the song too. Perfect!

4. Righteous Glory - I loved this track before, when it was on what I declared an inferior album. This mix is simply amazing--fuller, more emotional, more raw, and more beautiful than just about anything they've ever recorded. This is just the most fantastic and personal song about Valkyries carrying a dead warrior into the sky ever. It's literally haunting, and the final 30 seconds actually brought tears to my eyes and a chill down my spine. This is the band I have grown to adore over the last 25 years.

5. Touch the Sky - Another good track turned great. The new mix is so much more balanced than the previously released version. I don't really care for the breakdown they implemented around 2:15 in the song, but I can get used to it. Being only 3:46 in length, I feel like a bunch of chorus repetitions wouldn't have hurt this song like it affects some of the others. They should have just let the momentum carry it out until the natural end. Still, a wonderful tune.

6. Black List - One of the two tracks I was not looking forward to listening to again, in any form, no matter the mix, especially after seeing that it's still 6:47 in length. It feels like perhaps Joey was unable to compromise on this one with the remixing team, and they left it more or less as-is to satiate his ego and insistence on having a bass-heavy, mostly instrumental song on the album. Whatever happened, at least the mix sounds more full and less tinny and cheap. I still don't "get it" in general, and I continue to dislike the song. I'll be skipping this one every time.

7. Expendable - I like it more now than I did before. Even the old mix has kind of grown on me since first I heard it, though. They didn't do a whole lot to this one in the remix; nothing major anyway except (I believe) making it a tad shorter. Hmmm... Single???

8. El Gringo - Well, my DVD still hasn't arrived from Netflix, but when it gets here I'll be watching it straight away. Gotta see if it's a good match for the song. I did notice that the spaghetti western type theme seems to be a but more buried than before, like in the background, less obvious. The bass is predominant in this one, more so than in the album's earlier tracks. And they figured out some way to stretch this one out to 6:53, which is about a minute and a half too long for me. It reminds me of Neil Young's song "Sample and Hold," from the album Trans, the only Neil Young album I can stand to listen to. I have the LP in my collection (complete with the track list typo), and that particular song is one of my favorites on the platter (remember when they were called that?). When the CD release came out, it had a version that's about twice as long and half as good as that originally released mix. Believe it or not, what I'm saying is that I like the earlier version of "El Gringo" better than this more recent mix.

9. Annihilation - The second track I wasn't really looking forward to listening to, but after listening to it, I'm not sure why I felt that way. It has great drums, kick-ass guitar solos, again reminiscent of Vinnie Vincent for me (are Karl's fingers getting faster?), and not incredibly silly lyrics. By all rights, this turned out to be a decent song.

10. Hail, Kill and Die - This was my absolute least favorite song on the Hammer edition of this album. I really tore this track a new one in my review. I called it shameful. Once I heard the 90-second iTunes preview of this new mix, though, this was the one I was most looking forward to hearing in its full, remixed glory. Man, oh, man. POUNDING rhythm, a simple repeatable chant for the chorus, a great riff, Eric's killer vocals... It now seems like a perfectly logical--and rather welcome--updated version of "Blood of the Kings." It's really a new generation's version of that song I heard closing out the fantastic and best-selling Kings of Metal album in 1988--that song which introduced me to song titles I did not know but I realized at that time I had to seek out no matter the cost. I owe "Hail, Kill and Die," Manowar and Joey DeMaio an apology for my previous comments about this track. Not only was I wrong; I can't wait to hear this one played live. It's going to tear the place apart.

11. The Kingdom of Steel - This is the bonus track which was not released on the Hammer version of the album. I don't know what to think going in, other than that the iTunes preview gave away very little, being the first 90 seconds (mostly Stairway to Heaven-type guitar instrumental lead-in). It's a seven-minute-plus epic that I am hoping will not be too self-indulgent... [Time lapse] It's very plodding in pace... I guess I could have done without most of that 90-second intro, for one... Not sure I care for the chorus, or for the musical direction it goes. I don't know much of anything about music and theory or how to explain what I'm hearing, but I guess the best way I can describe it is that the chorus "goes down" when I was expecting it to "go up." ...And then the song modulates down even more at around 6:00... Seems like the songwriting was not too bad or silly. That is, there's a certain amount of respect given to the subject matter. Where songs like "The Gods Made Heavy Metal," "Die for Metal," and this album's own "Manowarriors" are obviously a bit tongue-in-cheek, this one is more akin to "Master of the Wind." On a side note, twice now I've listened to this song, and both times at 1:52 I get the jeepers creeped out of me by a small, childlike voice calling in distress into my right ear from afar, "Daaaaad!!!" Haha. It's like that "Shaaaane!" that I still, to this day, hear my mother calling from within the frenzied electrical guitar cacophony at the end of "Blood of the Kings."

ALL IN ALL:
Yep. I was wrong. I take it back. Well, most of it, anyway. The Lord of Steel still carries with it a certain cheese factor. But what Manowar release doesn't? However, I stand by my convictions that between this album and Louder Than Hell you will find some of the most pedestrian examples of songwriting in the band's nearly 30-year catalog.

Surprisingly, The Lord of Steel turned out to be a solid addition to that catalog all the same. I still think that 2009's Thunder in the Sky EP is a stronger body of work, but I will definitely be listening to this one again very soon, and probably even singing along before too long. I already do so to at least three tracks. It's a good dog walking or lawn mowing companion.

Thank you, Manowar, for coming through in the end. Oh, but no thanks for that Hammer edition. I'm going to delete it now and never give it another thought (well, maybe when I'm listening to the last half of "El Gringo.")

New list (up two spots to number eight):
1. Battle Hymns MMXI
2. Warriors of the World
3. Kings of Metal
4. Hail to England
5. Fighting the World
6. Gods of War
7. The Triumph of Steel
8. THE LORD OF STEEL
9. Sign of the Hammer
10. Battle Hymns
11. Louder Than Hell
12. Into Glory Ride

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Manowar update

This is a followup to my previous Lord of Steel post.

Now that the retail edition has released on iTunes and will be shortly released on CD to the world, and I've also had the opportunity to give the Hammer edition a few more spins, I can confidently say that I was right. :P That Hammer edition sucks balls.

I have heard the 90-second previews of all 11 tracks on iTunes, and just from that little bit of information I can safely say that the mix was the biggest problem with the preview release. Thank God they decided to tone down that overamplified, fuzzy, farting bass guitar in the new mix. Each song snippet I've heard is so much fuller and more powerful than before. Believe it or not, "Hail, Kill and Die" might be one of the stronger tracks on the album now that there's some true, thundering, visceral power behind it.

Now that this album's been out for a while it seems like there's a little bit of backpedaling going on, with the Manowar camp saying the Hammer edition was meant to be a rough cut preview of the final project. That's not what their own hype machine said in June. Back then they billed it as a special edition which, "blazes with pure power, untamed energy, and a sound as raw and wild as a force of nature...features sure-to-slay tracks like El Gringo, Hail, Kill And Die!, Annihilation and Expendable and is an essential album for every true metal fan's collection." It wasn't.

Well, regardless of that fiasco, at least we finally have the definitive version releasing worldwide in a couple of days. I'm curious to hear the rest of that eleventh track, too, as the iTunes preview doesn't really do it justice. I will end up downloading this one, but I doubt I'm going to pay for it if I can get away with it. I'll shore up my guilt by deleting the only copy of the shitty version I already have, never to speak of it again. I did the same thing with Metallica's Death Magnetic when the Guitar Hero version got out, since they really screwed up the mastering on that original release too. My conscience is clear.

Moving on, here's some exciting news:
  • Manowar has been tapped to do the soundtrack for an upcoming Jean-Claude Van Damme action flick.
  • "Sons of Odin" has been appropriated as the theme song for an online PC RPG-type fighting game called Smite, wherein players take the roles of gods and goddesses from various cultures throughout the history of the world. The game is currently in beta version with over 500,000 players worldwide. A trailer with gameplay featuring the Manowar song can be found on YouTube.
  • El Gringo releases on DVD today. It's at the top of my Netflix queue. I'll let you know how it is once I've watched it, and how well the Manowar tune fits it.
  • Joey said in a recent radio interview with Eddie Trunk that the band has been approached by two major touring agencies in the US regarding tours that would give us around a dozen US dates each. No word on whether the band will be entertaining their offers yet, but the interest alone is a freaking FANTASTIC piece of news. They are finally making a mark in the States! The rest of 2012 is already on paper, but maybe 2013 can be the year of the Conquest of the Stateside Manowarriors.
Once I've given the retail edition of Lord of Steel a couple of listens, I'll share my views on it. Hopefully that will be by this time next week. I hate to pay for the damn thing, but if I have to I will. It won't be the worst 15 bucks I've ever spent. That would be the dough I coughed up for the Hammer edition.


Friday, October 12, 2012

HPL Review: The Hound

This is a very short story about a couple of guys who are thrill seekers. It's similar to "Herbert West: Reanimator" in that our protagonist sort of paints himself as the willing accomplice following along on these insidious adventures instigated by the other guy.

Here's the synopsis: As I mentioned, these two guys have grown bored with life and even with the pursuits that exist on the fringe of society. Before long they realize in order to get excited about anything it must be dark, sinister or morbid activities. Eventually they resort to grave robbing for their adrenaline fix.

One day they get a line on this grave in Holland that is supposed to contain the body of a centuries-dead grave robber. He was purportedly buried with his last great prize, an amulet of some kind. They decide to target that grave next.

See, they consider themselves artists of a sort; they revel in the atmosphere of each plunder. And they see it as suitably poetic to rob the grave of a legendary grave robber.
They end up taking this gargoyle-looking amulet from the grave and hightailing it out of there, back to their elegantly and morbidly described museum of the disturbing known as their lair. That turns out to be a horrible mistake.

I really like this story. It's got some of the most unsettling stuff I've read in the descriptions of the loot they have in their hideout, (though I have discovered that one word I have in mine was a typo in the PDF translation**) and at the same time there are humorous passages that give a hint that Lovecraft penned this as kind of a parody. It's very reminiscent of Poe in certain parts, which is nothing new for Lovecraft, but this time it seems to be almost poking fun at not only Poe, but the whole Gothic horror genre in general.

There's this really cool bit of the story where Lovecraft shows that it's not supposed to be taken too seriously by doing this sort of "Rattling Bog" repetition about how the moon is full, the shadows are long, the trees are grotesque and drooping, there are huge bats flying around, there's a church steeple pointing like a finger into the sky, the fireflies are dancing, and there's a spectral howl of some sort of hound in the distance... He repeats that like three times nearly word for word during the story. I like that part. It's so graphically atmospheric, yet the way it's delivered is totally tongue-in-cheek.

"The Hound" is an easy, quick read that doesn't take itself too seriously. There's not much of a scare factor at the end, but definitely a worthwhile read. Highly recommended.

**I have to share this because it's kind of funny. When the protagonist describes the treasure trove the two villains have collected, at one point he says (in my ebook version), "Niches here and there contained... the flesh and radiantly golden heads of new-buried children." Picturing that, I cringed. Wow, I said to myself after reading that. Not only the heads of small children, but they flayed off the flesh too. God, that's horrible.

Once I heard an audiobook version of the story, I realized that my copy was wrong. It should have been the "...fresh and radiantly golden heads of new-buried children."
Ohhhh, I said to myself upon my new discovery. 'Fresh!' They were just cutting the heads off freshly buried children and taking them home as trophies; they didn't flay the flesh to keep as well. That's not quite so morbidly sinister. But honestly, in retrospect, is there truly any difference? LOL

Raising funds to help the local Arts scene

A non-profit near and dear to my heart, the Peoria Ballet, is currently attempting to raise enough donations to purchase a beautiful hand-painted backdrop for their annual performance of The Nutcracker at the Peoria Civic Center.

The rental fees on this thing are exorbitant, so owning a brand new one outright would be a wonderful boon for the organization, as the financial burden of putting on this traditional show (now in its 30th year) would be eased significantly.

More and more, arts programs are being cut from public schools due to lack of funding. The Peoria Ballet's Nutcracker has a day devoted to two performances just for our local schools. Many of those children will be seeing a production like this for the very first time. Each year I watch from backstage or the side aisles as a hush of wonder falls over those kids when the curtains open. It's an amazing feeling to be a part of inspiring so many young minds at once like that. That is what this production is all about.

Please help the Peoria Ballet maintain the majesty of this gorgeous production while exposing new generations to the classical beauty of the art of ballet, inspiring the dancers of tomorrow year after year. Make your pledge today, even if you have never been to the ballet or live too far away to come take in the show. You can still make a difference.

Visit the Kickstarter page and help the Peoria Ballet keep this Peoria family holiday tradition going strong. And check out the cool PowerPoint video featured on the page. That's my work. Only took about four hours to throw together. :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

HPL Review: Herbert West - Reanimator

Herbert West: Reanimator was originally written as a serial that was published in several installments in a weird fiction magazine.
Watching the Reanimator movie again prompted me to finally read this short story. As much as I love the movie with all its campiness and over-the-top gore effects, I think I enjoyed the written version even more.
The story is told by our protagonist, who was a colleague of Dr. West and can only speak of the events which he shared with West in the most hushed of tones and with some fear and trepidation.
A bit of a longer read than the other pieces I've discussed, this one took me two sittings to digest.
In a nutshell, West is a medical student who believes that a man's life force is purely chemical and physical in nature. To wit, if one could procure a body in decent shape, one could effectively reanimate that corpse artificially and prolong life indefinitely.
Shunned by the science and medical departments at Miskatonic University, West turns rogue and begins terrible experiments to prove his theory.
Through one ghastly failed experiment after another, his creations (the ones that technically work but appear to be devoid of any intellect) escape and pop up later as monsters of a sort. West repeatedly blames the lack of freshly deceased specimens, and he begins his quest to try his procedure on fresher and fresher corpses, until the day comes when he kills a man himself in order to try his reanimation serum out on the freshest possible corpse.
In the end he gets what's coming to him, but I don't want to give it away.
It was definitely an enjoyable read - well written as always, with some great descriptions, genuinely creepy moments and some surprisingly laugh out loud humor. That last attribute I was not expecting. Lovecraft was apparently a pretty witty fellow somewhere behind that grim, long face.

GLOSSARY:
Supernal: adj / of exceptional quality or extent / My second cousin Melvis is by far the most supernal numbskull with whom I ever had the displeasure of sharing a sham of a political discourse.

Sumptuary: adj / relating to laws limiting private expenditure on food or personal items / a communist society enacts sumptuary laws because a person's capital is best used on expenditures that benefit the community as a whole.

Acidulous: adj / sharp, bitter or mean-spirited / My seventh-grade social studies teacher had an acidulous way of responding to challenges to her flawed essay grading methods.

Lubberly: adj / big and clumsy; oafish / My supernally idiotic cousin Melvis was a lubberly fellow who reminded me a lot of John Coffey or the death-by-hugs guy from Of Mice and Men.

HPL Review: Pickman's Model

I had no idea what to expect when I started reading Pickman's Model. I was afraid it was going to be a dreamlike tale of building a model ship and sailing away to distant esoteric shores and such. I hate that "walking on moonbeams" crap. I'm happy to report, though, without spoiling anything, that it certainly ain't about model ship building and it ain't no boring Dream Cycle story. It's a doozy, too.
This story is told in a different fashion than any other Lovecraft tale I've read as yet, or any other story I've ever read come to think of it. We are told the story through the words of the narrator as he holds a conversation with a business acquaintance whose side of the discussion we are never privy to as readers. Think Bob Newhart's old phone call standup bits, or Clint Eastwood and his chair. I like the way Lovecraft used this style of narrative. It's a nice change of pace from his usual modus operandi.
The narrator is Mr. Thurber, a man nervously relating to his friend the story of why he suddenly and unexpectedly cut ties with a close friend of his who happened to be one of the hottest and well-known painters on the Boston art scene. He was particularly highly regarded for his ghoulish and fanciful pieces that were unlike any other current style in the market.
That painter's name was Richard Upton Pickman. And some time after the narrator cut ties with him, Pickman went missing.
Thurber describes to his friend the happenings of the time when he went to visit Pickman's studio space. He saw canvas upon canvas of very realistic and sometimes serene backgrounds crawling with horrific monstrosities, each one more disturbing and violent than the last.
The descriptions of the paintings made me think of the website dedicated to showing the works of people who procure art prints from rummage sales or thrift stores and then paint over them with foul creatures swarming a pristine farmhouse, squamous tentacles emerging from a placid lake, dead and rotting flesh dripping off the cheek of a previously innocent portrait subject, etc..
The scene in which he describes in detail the various horrible paintings in Pickman's studio, though not the climax, is definitely the highlight of the piece.
The "model" in the story relates to an artist's model. Pickman has a camera in his studio which he says he uses to photograph the backgrounds so he can look at the photos later in his studio and paint them without lookers-on or interruptions.
I will describe no more for fear of revealing spoilers. Please read the story yourself if you are interested. It can easily be consumed in one sitting, and it's worth the short amount of time invested.
This is one of my favorites so far because it skirts the line between simple, creepy dude story and infinitely powerful, cosmic monster from the void story. It doesn't lose itself in lengthy, circuitous descriptions of unimaginable things or places. Any color copy or descriptive text feels completely in place and helpful. And I only had to look up two words:

GLOSSARY:
Parvenu: noun / someone who has recently or suddenly risen to a place of wealth or power but has not yet gained the prestige or manner associated with it. / To witness the true parvenu in action, observe the character Roseanne Conner, post-lottery win, as she orders an armload of greasy burgers at the drive-through window.

Mephitic: adj / Foul-smelling / Two hours after consuming an armload of greasy burgers in her car, the air trapped inside the enclosed vehicle became so mephitic as to throw the cameraman into full-on vomiting convulsions.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

HPL Review: The Beast in the Cave

This story begins with an adventurous yet ill-prepared explorer lost in a cave after having made the poor decision to split off from his tour group. He soon discovers he is not alone, and his mind races at what sort of ferocious oddity of nature must live in such a secluded atmosphere, cut off from all sunlight and contact with the outside world. It's not long before his torch sputters out and he is left in complete darkness, wrestling with his own imagination and the frightening sounds of the unseen beast shuffling toward him.

No spoilers, but I will say that it's one of those twist endings that might at one time have shocked readers, but by today's standards is rather predictable. It's like if someone were to watch Hitchcock's Psycho for the first time today. Set against its modern contemporaries, how much would Psycho, a complete mindfuck in its day, surprise anyone? No one. It's still a valuable piece of the American/English film heritage, but it no longer holds the same power for today's jaded audiences. A few of Lovecraft's stories in this collection suffer from that same peril, and "The Beast in the Cave" is one of them.

Bearing in mind, though, that Lovecraft was only 14 years old when he wrote this story, it is an incredibly well told tale, and thankfully not too cryptic in its construction. It is sufficiently exciting, propelled on by expertly (yet by a novice) drafted descriptions of the story's setting and atmosphere, as well as the wild meanderings of the main character's imagination and memories.

GLOSSARY:

Consumptive: noun | a person with a wasting disease, especially pulmonary tuberculosis  | ex. During a tour of the primitive village, we came across the hut where the tribe's consumptives go in their final days.

Salubrious: adj  |  health-giving  |  ex. After spending my whole life in the smog of urban California, the salubrious Colorado mountain air was a welcome change.

Prognathous: adj  |  having a projecting lower jaw or chin  |  ex. When it attacked his puppy, Jerome kicked that prognathous, antagonistic American Bulldog right in its massive underbite of a mouth.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

HPL Review: The Music of Erich Zann

Art by David Reuss
"The Music of Erich Zann" was the first story of this collection that I read. It's a tale about a man in a boarding house who befriends a mute viol player that keeps a portal to another dimension at bay with his bizarre, dissonant music. Very Lovecraftian without delving into any Cthulhu mythos specifics. No night-gaunts, shoggoths, Great Old Ones, R'lyeh or Dreamlands; just a first-person account of the narrator's maddening encounter with a gateway to a dimension of complete emptiness which may or may not be attempting to spawn eldritch creatures borne of the horrible, unfathomable chilly depths of space itself.
It's a quick, easy read that can be tackled in one sitting. I quite enjoyed it.

As always, the atmosphere is conveyed with skillful mastery by the author. The description of the Rue d'Auseil paints a vivid picture. For some reason, in my mind the town seems to have been designed by Tim Burton or Dr. Seuss, or perhaps it was some sort of collaboration. I see impossibly angular and vertically superlative buildings teetering, yet inexplicably stable, on their practically 90-degree cobbled slope.

The story sucks you in slowly with a stranger coming to town and getting settled. It gradually builds interest as he inquires about the man playing the strange music. The pace begins to quicken as the characters meet and we realize there is probably more to the music than meets the ear. There is no doubt about where the climax comes, as the frantic music is playing, the wind is blowing, the colors are dancing, the lead character is shouting and fighting against the forces which pull from this world into the next... Whew.

What brought the story to my attention in the first place was the song titled "Erich Zann" from the Mythos album by C.G. Gross. I recommend both this story and that CD, especially for the Lovecraft initiate.


GLOSSARY:

Garret: noun | a top-floor or attic room, especially a small, dismal one  |  ex. We took Grandma's rocking chair and tea set to the garret as she instructed in the letter we received prior to her arrival.

Declivity: noun |  a downward slope  |  ex. Seeing Jones' helpless expression and the declivity of the graph he was about to present, the Board of Directors had a pretty solid notion that he was not delivering pleasant news.

Capricious: noun |  given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior  |  ex. There is very little in nature than can be as unpredictable as the capricious nature of a premenstrual Tasmanian She-Devil.

Crabbed: adj |  contorted and difficult to understand  |  ex. Due to the arthritis and Parkinson's disease, her crabbed sign language was a nightmare to decipher.

Friday, August 24, 2012

HPL Review: The Curse of Yig

My first exposure to the name Yig was in 1989 when GWAR released their seminal album Scumdogs of the Universe, which included the track “The Horror of Yig,” a song which gave little if no indication of who or what Yig was. Years later, I’ve run into the name a few times here and there in reading or gaming sessions. Now, after finally having read this story, I can finally say I know what Yig is.

The Curse of Yig is a tale within a tale; a doctor at an asylum relates to an American Indian anthropologist in 1925 the story of a married 19th century settler couple and their run-in with the mystery surrounding the legend of the Indian Snake God and “half-human father of serpents,” Yig.
This is the origin tale of Yig, initially written by Zealia Bishop but referred to Lovecraft in 1928 for fleshing out. Accepting it as a paid job, Lovecraft did so, and returned the story to Bishop, who promptly sold it to Weird Tales magazine under her own name; it was subsequently printed in 1929.

No spoilers here, but there are a few key plot points I can reveal.

1. The settler husband, Walker Davis, is terrified of snakes, with an “almost epileptic fear.”

2. Yig is a snake god who watches over his progeny on earth, vowing vengeance on all who harm them.

3. An old Indian squaw told Walker, when he was small, that he would meet his end owing to snakes.

4. The Indians in the story are preoccupied with appeasing and sating Yig to avoid his wrath.

5. In the beginning, the anthropologist is shown some sort of horrifying snake/human hybrid creature locked away deep in the asylum underground, and it is the precursor to revealing the Davises’ story.

The story is expertly woven, the atmosphere portrayed with horrifying detail. As the story progresses, you can almost hear the ritual pounding of the Wichita Indians’ tom-toms in the distance. When they finally and suddenly stop, you can really feel the same dread felt by the main character. That entire scene is a nailbiter.

The other image that drills its way into your brain and nests there for a few hours after you’re finished is what happened (in a story within the story within the story) to the man who suffers dozens of venomous bites from an entire horde of rattlesnakes. I will say no more. (shudder)

This story is written in a far less arcane manner than most of the other HPL tales I’ve read to this point. I would venture to categorize it as a wonderful place to begin if you’ve never exposed yourself to Lovecraft’s writings before but are curious about them. You’ll spend far less time during the reading of this story looking up words in the dictionary or struggling to understand them through mere context clues than you will with most of the others I’ve had a chance to look at.

The toughest bits of reading were really the passages of dialog exchanged between the Davises. Remember Stephen King’s role in Creepshow? The country bumpkin covered with alien meteorite-spawned moss? Yeah, it’s like two of him talking to each another only missing maybe three more teeth each. It’s a consistently illustrated dialect, to be sure, but a hard one to decode at times.

The Curse of Yig is a fantastic story. Of the seven or eight I’ve read so far, this is the most accessible and easily one of the most enjoyable. It took me two sessions of reading to get through it.

GLOSSARY

Sententious: adj | given to moralizing in a pompous or affected manner | ex. I could no longer stand the sententious lecture of the Southern Baptist preacher, so I quietly excused myself from the congregation.

Squamous*: adj | covered with or categorized by scales | ex. Wonder Woman never got it on with Aquaman because she was completely turned off by his squamous genitals.

Salient: adj | most noticeable or important | ex. I understand now why jumping off this bridge is a poor idea; the gravity issue you bring up is a salient point.

Saltatory: adj | archaic | relating to the action of leaping or jumping | ex. I wanted to dance with the strangely beautiful mutated grasshopper woman, but I found it hard to keep up with her saltatory style.

Bluff: adj | direct in speech or behavior but in a good-natured way | ex. Uncle Marty was a bluff man, sure to tell it like it is and probably make you laugh in the process.

*this one I actually looked up after coming across it in a game of Cthulhu Gloom

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

E-book review: A protracted, wearisome endeavor

I purchased, weeks ago, a voluminous electronic collection of the myriad writings of one Mr. Howard Phillips Lovecraft. It is my intention to painstakingly forage my way through this immense volume story by story, poem by poem, letter by letter, until I stand victorious over my 9,163-page conquest, wiser as a reader and substantially more learned in the mythos of the Ancient Ones and related eldritch phantasmagoric creatures.

I shall, after having devoured each of the collection's offerings (if I myself have not been devoured instead), post in this forum my impression of the piece at hand, along with any newly discovered arcane diction I have added to my working lexicon as a result of said reading.

I am already several tales into this compendium, though to be fair you should know I have been consuming the offerings in a nonlinear fashion, skipping around pointedly to the stories that most pique my interest (weighing that, of course, against the heft of the tale itself, for sake of calculating the required time investment).

I shall begin my series of reviews with the tale I most favor of those I have taken in thus far. That shall be my forthcoming subsequent missive on this site, assuming the consumption of these tales does not drive me to madness. I thank you for your readership and await our next meeting in this Other World the gibbering hordes know as Cyberspace.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Draw Something... Draw anything! Just draw already!

My addiction has moved to the next level. I killed the Facebook album I mentioned earlier and started a Tumblr page to share my coolest drawings.

Check out McDraw Something at
http://mcgrawshane.tumblr.com
and feel free to comment, reply, post your own versions, or whatever!

While you're at it, subscribe! :)

REVIEW: Manowar's newest LP hits some high notes

I have been in possession of Manowar's latest full-length offering, The Lord of Steel, for about a week now, and I've given it several spins in that time. I wanted to be able to give a fair review for this record; I'd say I'm pretty familiar with it by now, and I finally think I can do just that.

First, let me say I'm pleased that the band seems to have abandoned the horrible concept of their Asgard Saga. It sounded cool on paper, but once I saw those dreadfully cheesy video clips of medieval battles and a village being overrun I thought, "Odin, help me."

This album seems to harken back to the type of tracks you might find on 1996's Louder Than Hell. Now, those of you who have read my blog before should know that I don't have an extremely high opinion of that particular disc. Basically, a third of that CD, in my opinion, kinda blows. It's stale and recycled sounding, the songwriting kind of sucks, and the tracks do not take advantage of Eric Adams' insane vocal talents. The other portion, though, is pretty kick-ass, and including one of my favorite Manowar songs, "The Power," and the instrumental I'd like played at my funeral, "Today is a Good Day to Die."

This album is similar to me. There are a couple of real stinkers on the track list. Conversely, we also have two or three genuine treasures.

Track one, the title song, has a killer riff, punishing drum work by Donnie Hamzik, and the vocals are in line with their most recent stuff, though not quite allowing Adams to really shine and show off his power and range. It's a catchy tune in the vein of "Thunder in the Sky." The lyrics are fairly un-silly and straightforward. One of the better tracks.

Track two, "Manowarriors," is not only unnecessary, as we Manowar fans already have a solid and respectable theme ("Army of Immortals" from Hail to England), but the lyrics are downright laughable. (Sorry, Joey.) Get a load of this: "Never gonna change our style, gonna play tonight for quite a while." Wow. "Quite a while?" Boy, that's really in-your-face. And the chanting dudes are getting a bit old. We can sing along without the Kidz Bop for adults call-and-response bullshit. Second worst track on the album. Yep, sadly, there's one even worse yet to discover.

Track three is is the awesome song "Born in a Grave." It's fresh sounding (though reminiscent of "Gods of War"), lyrically unique, musically interesting, and not too repetitive. I'd like to point out that two of the tracks which immediately stood out to me as highlights on this disc were the only two tracks on which Joey DeMaio shared writing credits. I've been thinking for a few years now that part of the problem with this band is that it sometimes suffers from the well-meaning but massively overinflated ego of Joey DeMaio (liner notes: "all songs written, engineered, recorded, edited and produced by Joey DeMaio, [who plays] 4 string, 8 string, piccolo bass guitars and keyboards."). I think this album proves yet again that a little bit of new blood in the songwriting process would be beneficial to the band.

Track four is the other song on which Joey shared writing credits with Karl Logan. "Righteous Glory" is possibly one of the most musically beautiful songs Manowar has ever recorded. The vocal layering and power in the first chorus will bring you chills. It's not a new theme (Valkyries carrying slain warriors to Valhalla), but it's never been done quite like this... Except in "Swords In the Wind," of course. This one immediately stood out to me as the best track on the disc. It's the only one I listened to twice in a row during my first exposure to the album. Another testament to the idea that Joey needs to back off a bit and let some creative juices take the band wherever it should go.

Track five is DeMaio's writing highlight on the album and the third-best tune on it, "Touch the Sky." It is reminiscent of Louder Than Hell's "Number One," thankfully sans the stupid chanting crap. It's a solid track and a welcome addition to the Manowar catalog. I look forward to hearing it live even though it plays the vocals and lead guitars pretty safe all the way through.

"Black List" begins sounding like an instrumental, only an incredibly lackluster one. After two minutes in, I started thinking that maybe they forgot to mix in a vocal track or something. All it is up to that point is a plodding rhythm guitar and drums, perfect for adding vocals over but horrible as a standalone piece. Then it goes silent for a second at around 2:30 and the vocals kick in after the song starts back up. But it starts with the chorus. It feels very odd to have the chorus delivered to you after two and a half minutes of nothing leading up to it. Then we get a solo followed by a short bridge and two more choruses. WTF? This is a waste of seven minutes. I want them back. Worst decision since "Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts."

Track seven is "Expendable." This song was inspired by the brainless yet entertaining action movie The Expendables. This song could easily have been the theme song to that film, as they were both cut from the same cloth. Seriously, though, this is a pretty cool track. One of the better ones on the disc. And not a single mention of Norse mythology. Whew. On a side note, whoever spell checked the liner notes and lyric sheets should have their head removed. "...Your watching on the outside - Yea that's all you people know - So bring a knife or a gun - and I'll show you what their for..." and "...I will survive with no one left around me - cause your all gonna die..." Shame on you, Magic Circle. Hire me. I can proofread like a sonuvabitch.

The eighth track, "El Gringo," actually is the theme song from a movie. An independent, direct-to-video Western movie with a whopping budget of $7M. Christian Slater is in it. Third billing. You might recognize the top-billed star from his work in... Aw, never mind. Well, at least it makes for a cool tune. In keeping with the comparison of this album with Louder Than Hell, this is Lord of Steel's "Outlaw." Solid, with only a little bit of that Manowar cheese factor.

The penultimate track, "Annihilation," is a so-so effort that feels a bit empty. Some recycled lyrics pieced together from older songs. A confusing theme on this one. It starts out as a typical Manowar vengeance and justice vehicle, but at the end it seems to flirt with creeping into the metal anthem territory. At the last moment it seems to come to its senses and snap back into that "hand of justice" trope. I don't know. This song is actually kind of a mess.

By the time the final track rolls around, I'm ready to end it. It's rare that a Manowar disc ends with its worst track, but this is a fine example. This song just pisses me off. It's completely unnecessary, and it feels like an exploitation of their own work. Crafting an entire song out of the titles of previous songs is hard to do and make it not sound retarded. They already did it successfully with the classic, "Blood of the Kings," so why even attempt it again? This is just shit. Possibly one of the worst songs they ever recorded. It's a shame. When a band has the ability to round out an album with a barrage of bad-assedness like on Warriors of the World or Fighting the World, to fizzle out with a piece of shit song like this should be embarrassing.

Overall, I place this album somewhere near the bottom of my fave scale, which I included in my comprehensive post about Manowar back in February. Probably right above Louder Than Hell. That would make the updated list:

1. Battle Hymns MMXI
2. Warriors of the World
3. Kings of Metal
4. Hail to England
5. Fighting the World
6. Gods of War
7. The Triumph of Steel
8. Sign of the Hammer
9. Battle Hymns
10. The Lord of Steel
11. Louder Than Hell
12. Into Glory Ride

Note, though, that these are full-length releases only. 2009's Thunder in the Sky was technically an EP, but I'd place it pretty high on the list if I could, probably right below Kings of Metal. I think it's some of their finest work of late. If you could take the entirety of Thunder in the Sky and combine it with three of the strongest tracks from Lord of Steel, you'd have one hell of an album.

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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Draw Something is amazing!

I have a confession. I am balls-deep into a Draw Something addiction right now. I cannot recommend a mobile app any higher than I do this game. It is so incredibly fun, even without purchasing the $1.99 premium upgrade, though I'm bound to do so at any time now.

I play this game whenever I have a chance. I currently have about 15 games going, and at times I find myself thinking that's just not enough. So far there are about half a dozen players I really enjoy volleying back and forth with (and one of those is an opponent that was randomly selected for me). I can still have fun with all the players in my games, but there is that handful whose drawings I truly anticipate receiving, not only to watch them guess my drawing, but to see what they have in store for me.

I try my best to avoid taking the easy way out on a drawing whenever possible. Of course, sometimes I am limited by the size of my iPhone, especially when coupled with the sausagelike fngers that are doing the drawing. But for the most part I have stuck to my plan of creating a challenge out of each round when I can, not only for myself, but for the guesser as well. For instance, last night the word I chose to draw was "red." I could have drawn a splotch of red paint and pointed to it with an arrow.

Instead--and I wish I'd done a screen grab of this now--I went with "red" as more of a theme. I drew (in this order) a wall splattered with blood, a huge puddle on the floor, a bloody, severed stick-man arm lying in the puddle, a kneeling, blood-spattered stickman sans one arm next to it, and the caption, "Oh dear. It appears my arm has fallen off."

One time for "blender" I drew (again, in this order) a nondescript green, red and slightly yellow swirl topped by a green splotch with what appeared to be two bulging eyes, a cup or jar surrounding it, a black base, some buttons, an electrical cord , and more colored splotches radiating out from the carnage; a frog in a blender.

Here are a few I did get screen grabs of. These are some of my greatest examples of not taking the easy way out. Once again, anyone can view my entire ongoing album of favorite original Draw Something screen grabs at this URL. Please stop by for a chuckle or two. Enjoy the preview below!



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