IC2S Playlist Update 04/11/2015

First up this week is “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses from Use Your Illusion I. For years, I considered this my all-time favourite song. While it has since been dethroned by “(*Fin)” by Anberlin (which, even then, was my 2nd favourite), I still really like it and Guns N’ Roses. If I had to guess, I’d imagine that my cooling attitude towards the song has to do with moving past teenage angst, so a breakup song like this is less appealing than a more thoughtful/theological/philosophical song like “(*Fin)”.

Naturally I decided to pick this song since it is the first week of November. I used to have a tradition on Facebook where I’d post a line from the song every day until the end of the month, at which point I’d post the song’s epic music video. It’s really too bad that Axl Rose is such a crazy asshole – it’d be great to get the original lineup back.

Secondly, we have “Down the Rabbit Hole” by Sovereign Council from their first album, New Reign. This is probably their best song from their debut album, although due to lineup changes, they aren’t able to play it anymore without a guest guitarist (since the song requires 2 lead guitars. This was disappointing, but it really reminded me just how good this song was and how much I wanted to hear it.

By the way, this entry how puts us to 56 songs and just short of 5 hours of music! That’s a pretty big accomplishment as far as I’m concerned, but it does make me wonder how long I’m going to keep the playlist going. I’m currently thinking that I’d like to keep it on a weekly update schedule at least until the playlist’s 1 year anniversary, but after that we’ll see how it goes.

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 28/10/2015

First up this week is “God Is Dead?” by Black Sabbath from their latest album 13. I wrote a short article about this song almost 2 years ago*, claiming that the song was in fact the opposite of the anti-religious song that it appears to be on the superficial level. I still hold fast to this interpretation of course, and it has caused the song to endear on me ever since its release. I hadn’t heard it in quite some time though, until a couple weeks ago when my internet radio station of choice put it on and reignited by love for this song.

Also, I just love how the song sounds. The dark, religious imagery is very effective, and the song has an unmistakable twinge of menace throughout it. It’s just a great example of modern metal and proof that Black Sabbath still have talent and relevance even after a career spanning four decades.

Secondly, we have “Normandy” by Project 86 from their album Rival Factions. Rival Factions was a really strange album for Project 86. From what I understand, there seemed to be lots of frustration within the band about their musical direction – some of them wanted to branch out their sound, and I imagine that there was frustration over the control exercised by frontman Andrew Schwab. The band’s drummer ultimately left prior to Rival Factions‘ recording, while the other bandmates (except for Schwab) would all leave as well by the time that the next album was complete. These frustrations are clearly the primary driving force behind Rival Factions, as the title points out. The album has a really diverse sound: they’ll use their traditional post-hardcore sound for a couple songs, then they’ll break into metalcore, then a straight-up rock song. The resulting album isn’t entirely cohesive and has an extremely short runtime of just over 30 minutes, which makes it probably my least-favourite Project 86 album**… I mean, I still enjoy it, but it’s a bit of a blemish on Project 86’s otherwise extremely consistent discography.

Anyway, “Normandy” is probably the song which most directly addresses the background struggles of Rival Factions. In high school, right as I was getting into Project 86, I was actually going to do a presentation on this song for a class where we were supposed to interpret a poem or song. It’s probably a good thing that I never did this presentation (I got my wisdom teeth taken out the day I was supposed to present so I got off scot-free), because even now I still have a fuzzy idea of what it all means. The song seems to very cryptically use the metaphor of a head-on collision to represent the opposing wills of individuals leading to a severing of ties.

*Side note: two freaking years ago? Where has the time gone?!?
**The only other album of theirs that I think is rather weak and might actually be my least-favourite now is their latest release, Knives to the Future. The album is pretty well-done I’ll admit, but very few of the songs stand out and I can’t help but be disappointed that their hardcore sound has been toned down significantly. Again – still a good album, but I just found it a tad disappointing and not the same high bar that Project 86 usually hits for me.

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 21/10/2015

Unlike recent weeks, I don’t really have a theme tying the songs together this week. We’re going to start out with “Nuclear” by Mike Oldfield from Man on the Rocks. I’ve been listening to the Metal Gear Solid V soundtrack for a couple weeks now and it’s making me really dig this song. It was a good selection for the game, as its apocalyptic imagery fits the games’ themes perfectly.

Speaking of Metal Gear, the preparation for the big retrospective is underway. I’ve been writing up a review for The Phantom Pain and have blazed through Portable Ops in the past week. I’m currently working through Peace Walker and then we’ll see where it goes after that. I’m planning on sticking to canon entries only (including Portable Ops of course and Rising as well), but if I’m not sick of the whole series after all of this then I might do a couple entries for the Ac!d games because I remember enjoying both of them quite a bit. So… yeah. That’s what my life looks like for the next couple months. It’s gonna be a mammoth undertaking, but it’ll be very fun and hopefully will give me a better appreciation for this franchise I enjoy so much.

Anyway, secondly we have “Hearts Alive” by Mastodon from Leviathan. I was really debating between this and arguably their most popular song, “Blood and Thunder”, but “Hearts Alive” won out in the end. For one thing, if you’re familiar with the playlist then you’re probably aware that I’m a big fan of good, long songs. “Hearts Alive” definitely fits that bill at over 13 minutes in length. Mastodon has such a classical style to their metal, that it always shocks me that they are a post-2000s band, as they sound like nothing else that I’ve heard from their era. Like, when they put out their debut album, nu-metal was probably the most commercially-successful force in metal. Maybe I just haven’t explored the genre well enough yet, but I have always found Mastodon to sound very regressive, but in a very intentional, intelligent and good way.

Please follow and like us:

Review Misuse

Critical reviews are an endless source of discussion in popular culture. On the one hand, they offer a useful tool to sort through content and get a general idea of whether the product will appeal to you. On the other hand though, people often bristle at review scores and find themselves in a sharp divide between critical opinion and public perception. TotalBiscuit recently put out a pretty good video highlighting the disconnect between reviewers and the general public after the latest debacle regarding review scores of the Mad Max video game. In case you don’t feel like watching/listening to a 40 minute video, TotalBiscuit basically says that reviewers and the public have differing opinions on what constitutes value, that the public tends to value familiarity over innovation and that the public puts too much stock into review scores rather than the content of reviews themselves. While I liked the video, I think that TotalBiscuit waffled a little too much and didn’t really dig hard enough into the issues at hand for my tastes.

First off, I will agree 100% that people (particularly video gamers in my experience) put way too much emphasis into review scores. This is generally where the most ridiculous controversies spring from, such as the numerous occasions where reviewers have received death threats for giving games a glowing 9/10 review. This is due in part to some members of the gaming media’s really poorly skewed scoring system, which has messed with gamers’ expectations of what score a game should receive. I can’t be the only one who has noticed that many video game reviewers tend to score games very “softly”, giving almost every major release an 8 or a 9, with one or two huge releases typically getting 10s. For many gamers, this has created the expectation that games scoring lower than a 8 are unacceptable, even though the scale itself has been incredibly devalued and uninformative (and even then, they have a hard time accepting an 8 for a hyped, triple-A release).

In spite of its problems, I actually rather like the 10-point review scale (or its various gradients, such as the 100-point scale). As a bit of a stats geek, I like the idea of being able to quantify my feelings towards a piece of media through a simple system like this. This is the whole reason that I signed up for an IMDb account more than a decade ago and have been tracking every movie I’ve seen ever since. Obviously it’s still not perfect – “so bad they’re good” movies such as Troll 2 get a low rating for quality but I find them endlessly enjoyable. Other movies just may be super generic or very flawed, but I like them quite a bit anyway (such as Howling V).

That said, I don’t find websites like Metacritic to be very helpful*. Metacritic prioritizes review scores over the content of the reviews themselves, effectively making anything but that final score worthless. This also becomes problematic when different reviewers use differing review scales – since many game reviewers are “soft” these days, the few that actually do use the full spectrum of the 10-point scale can knock a game’s Metacritic score down and cause an uproar. This becomes even more distressing though, because publishers have been known to hand out bonuses to developers for hitting score-thresholds on Metacritic. How about this publishers: if you want the game to hit a score-threshold on Metacritic, then maybe give your developers more time to polish the game and don’t hold them to a hard-and-fast release deadline? Or worse, what are the odds that the desire for high review scores and sales stifles creativity by stifling innovation?

Another element that I thought that TotalBiscuit missed the mark on was the disconnect between critics and the public. He was acting like he thought critics were on a totally different wavelength from the rest of us. Personally, I think this stems from a misunderstanding of the purpose of critics. In essence, a critic is someone who has studied, and consumes, a lot of media and therefore has an informed opinion on whether individual media is worth consuming, which they pass on to the public as a form of service. Having seen a wider variety of good and bad content than most consumers, a critic tends to be better able to judge the quality of a piece of art. That said, it must always be remembered that a critic is just a professional giver of opinions – even the best critic will find themselves at odds with other critics and/or the public at times and it isn’t unheard of for peoples’ opinions to change over time. The critic’s own preferences can also affect the review process – it’s pretty common for horror movies to get mixed to negative reviews, even if they’re well-regarded amongst fans of the genre.

The disconnect comes from a couple elements of the differences between critics and consumers. Many consumers will have a very limited scope of the media – they may only watch summer blockbusters, or only play first person shooters, or not have a lot of interest in the finer points of a genre outside of whether they enjoyed it or not. As a result, reviews might not even be that big a factor in their purchase, but rather a badge of pride that something they like is considered “good”. These will often be the consumers most vocally hostile towards critics as, from their perspective, critics are held in high regard but do not line up with their understanding of media. This is related to arguably my favourite post on this blog, Translating Ideology, where I explored the gulfs that form between people with different world views. It’s a strange dichotomy – they may personally dislike critics for disagreeing with their perspectives, but still hold their opinions as authoritative and somehow able to diminish their media. Consumers in this mindset need to keep into perspective that, in the end, critics are just putting out their opinions.

Perhaps this prods at a deeper area of resentment though – the old hatred of “snobby intellectuals” versus the uneducated “everyman” who knows what is actually good and what isn’t (this is what Conservapedia would refer to as “the best of the public”, and you know it has to be great if Conservapedia endorses it…). I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an element of this in complaints about snobby critics, where the consumer is literally too unlearned on the subject to understand the critic’s perspective. Bear in mind that this isn’t to say that the consumer is wrong to enjoy whatever media they want to, but it is worth understanding that the divergence between critics and consumers comes down to a wide variety of personal experiences, not simply because “critics like innovation, consumers like what’s familiar” as TotalBiscuit boils it down to.

Wrapping things up, I think that we need to keep a few things about reviews in mind in the future. First of all, don’t put all your faith in review scores, but be sure to read the full reviews to see if you agree with their analysis. Secondly, understand that a “low” review score can still be great – I really enjoyed Lollipop Chainsaw and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, both relatively low-scoring games which I feel deserved their lower score for technical/design reasons, but which were still well worth playing. I myself gave Alien Isolation a 6/10 on this blog, but enjoyed it for the most part and would recommend trying it. Lastly, keep in mind that the opinion of a critic is just that – an opinion. If you have different experiences than they do, then you may disagree and that’s totally fine. Don’t let it diminish your own feelings towards a piece of media.

*That said, I actually quite like Rotten Tomatoes’ system. Instead of just averaging the differing scales of a handful of critics, Rotten Tomatoes measures from the number of critics who “liked” and “disliked” the movie and then gives it a “fresh” rating if more than 60% of critics liked it. It’s a much better aggregate system in my opinion and tends to be my personal source for information on a movie’s reception.

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 14/10/2015

EDIT: I’ve been working on a little update for the blog, going through past, current and upcoming posts to tag them with their subject matter. If you’re interested in what I’m talking about in any blog post, click one of the labels at the bottom of the post and it’ll link you to all of my posts on the subject! Considering that I’m often calling back to previous topics, this should hopefully be quite handy for everyone, myself included!

So it looks like we’re going for an anti-war theme this week (or at the very least, songs which explore the human cost of war). This wasn’t entirly intentional, but as soon as I made my selections the theme clicked and I quite like how it all worked out. First up this week, we have “One” by Metallica from their album …And Justice For All. I decided to pick this song this week after a particularly epic air-drumming session that spontaneously commenced when this song came on the radio at the end of a late-night road trip. Like many people, I first got exposed to this song by Guitar Hero 3, and it really ignited a love for early Metallica music. “One” is just a natural fit for me – as you might have noticed from some of my earlier selections, I really love longer songs with a slow build-up which supports the epic musicianship/lyrics later and just makes them stronger overall. “One” is pretty much a text-book example of this.

I also like the story that the song tells: losing all of your senses but only being able to feel pain seems like it would indeed be the very definition of hell on earth. For the longest time I thought that the song was based on a real person, but thankfully not. It seems to be based on an anti-war novel and film called Johnny Got His Gun (or, at the very least, was based on the same concept).

Secondly, we have “The Price of a Mile” by Sabaton from the album The Art of War. The Art of War is, in my opinion, the first good Sabaton album, and “The Price of a Mile” is a good example of why. I’d argue that it’s one of their all-time best songs and stretches their usual formula of singing about great historical victories, this time singing about a horrific, senseless waste of life. It is especially resonant for me as a Canadian, since we are all brought up being told about the thousands of Canadian soldiers who died in the Battle of Passchendaele to win a few measly miles which were soon lost again. It’s a really sombre, and yet bad ass, song which really hammers home the meaningless nature that war can take on, and questions the costs that are associated with victory at all costs.

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 07/10/2015

So I’ve got a bit of an ambitious undertaking that I have been formulating over the course of the last couple weeks. I beat the main story in Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain just in time for the release of Metal Gear Online, and have been sketching out the beginnings of a review. However, I don’t just want to review The Phantom Pain: I want to do the retrospective to top all retrospectives and write up a comprehensive series review. Obviously this could take months to do (and that’s assuming that I do manage to make it through), so I’ll have to make up my mind on whether to write it all and then release or to put it out in chunks as I finish them. I’ll have more details soon as I get the project underway, so stay tuned!

Anyway, kicking off the playlist this week, we have “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum. I chose this song for little reason other than because I really like it. It’s extremely catchy and goes to show that people will listen to gospel music if you make it sound awesome (ahem, take a hint from that Casting Crowns). I also find it really interesting that it is seen as a really big gospel hit, and I can imagine that there are some people would say that it’s a “sign of the times” that songs like this don’t become radio hits anymore. However, this song is not really all that it appears to be – theologically, it’s kind of heretical at times when Greenbaum declares that he’s “Never been a sinner I never sinned”. This is in part due to the fact that Greenbaum was essentially making fun of how shitty gospel music is (and also explains why the lyrics are so simple).

Next up, we have “Get Back” by David Unger. Of all DUM’s “parody” songs, “Get Back” is definitely my favourite. For one thing, it has an amazing music video (of the kid torturing the bad guys in Home Alone). As soon as it begins you’re hooked, as the music is very catchy (is that a keyboard in guitar mode…?) and David Unger has a really great voice.

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 30/09/2015

It’s apocalypse-mania this week on the playlist. While last week’s selections were loosely/unintentionally-themed, this week it’s entirely intentional. We’re checking out a couple songs about the end of the world, because… well, I love depressing music and it doesn’t get much more depressing than this! Cheekiness aside, while I have written in the past many times about my distaste for the so-called “Biblical prophecies” concerning the end of the world, it is nevertheless a fascinating subject and steeped in some great imagery… perfect ingredients for a moody song.

First up this week we have “The Great Fear” by Impending Doom from their album There Will Be Violence (note that someone on Spotify screwed up and labelled it as “Walking Through Fire” – this is incorrect; each song has been shifted down 1 position, with the opening song being replaced by the closer). I know that there are some Impending Doom fans who think that the band’s first 2 albums were their best, but I couldn’t disagree more – they were basically unlistenable in my opinion. There Will Be Violence really marked the point where they evolved their sound and (let’s be honest) watered it down just enough to make it sound really appealing to more people. And I don’t mean that in a Dead Space 3-style “mass appeal” way – I mean that there is a handful of people who are interested in listening to loud, chaotic noise while what sounds like pig grunts are overlaid over it. However, more people will be interested if you reign in the music somewhat and replace the pig grunts with death growls and screams. Sure, a few people are going to be disappointed, but it’s hard to argue when the results are so strong and accessible to more people.

Anyway, while “The Great Fear” is yet another Christian metal song about the Rapture/Tribulation, it is a pretty great one. Impending Doom has a really great talent for creating catchy hooks in their songs which make you want to scream along. “The Great Fear” has many of these moments, particularly in the chorus and basically the entire latter-half of the song.

Secondly, I don’t think I’m overstating things by calling Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” from American IV: The Man Comes Around a modern classic. I imagine a lot of people first experienced it in the fantastic opening credits of Zach Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, but my aunt was actually the one who introduced me to it. I have a hard time saying that I’m a big fan of Johnny Cash because, honestly, a lot of his music really sucks. However, I’m as big a fan as anyone of a really good Johnny Cash song, and “The Man Comes Around” is definitely one of them.

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 23/09/2015

(Whoops, published this a day early!)

First up this week, we have “Alive” by XXI, from their debut album Inside Out. If you’re a regular reader of the blog*, then you’ll know that I’ve been following the rather tragic transition of A Feast for Kings to their current status as XXI. The Hell on Earth EP was fantastic, and their tribute to fallen singer Eric Gentry was fantastic, so I was hoping for great things with Inside Out. Unfortunately, the final product has left me a little underwhelmed. Now, to be fair, I have only listened to it twice now, and normally it takes me a few listen-throughs to really form a solid opinion on an album, but I do feel that I’m already getting a good grip on it. Overall, Inside Out is a technically proficient album, but it fails to live up to the promise that the band members set with their debut EP. Part of the reason for this is that very few of the songs really stand out (“Alive” and “Say It Again” being the two best imho) – most sound like typical teen angst/Christian hard rock and don’t seem to go beyond the basics of this sound. It also kind of stings that they toned down their sound slightly, but this isn’t a major complaint – they could have swapped to rhythmic bongo dance music for all I care as long as the music was good. This feeling was made even worse when I went right back to Hell on Earth immediately after finishing the album, and the difference in quality between the two products was night and day. I don’t regret purchasing Inside Out by any means (it is a decent album after all), but I can’t help but be disappointed that XXI seems to have taken a musical step down following the “Memories” single. Hopefully they learn from this and step back up for their sophomore effort.

Secondly, we have “American Dream” by Casting Crowns from their self-titled debut album. I would argue that, for their first 3 albums at least, Casting Crowns was one of the best bands to ever out of the contemporary Christian music (CCM) market. While they did their standard CCM duties and put out some really heartfelt, quality worship music, they also had a strong desire to call out the church and society where they saw things were problematic (hell, their first two songs on their very first album call out the church for not doing its duties, and they have a whole album dedicated to the inaction and judgmentalism of Christians). “American Dream” is a good examplar of this, and is actually subtle enough that a non-Christian could actually conceivably enjoy it.

However, by the time they released their fourth album, Until the Whole World Hears, something had gone amiss. Did they get too much power and influence within the evangelical church? Did they feel like they couldn’t bite the hands which fed them anymore? Did they end up in bed with American right-wing social politics? Did they believe that they had to neuter themselves to sell more records? Whatever the case, their music began to sound more generic and toned down, while also being far less critical (not that they were breaking ground anyway, but they were proficient and clearly sincere before). Until the Whole World Hears is basically just a generic CCM/worship album with only a couple good songs and no critical asides to show that they actually care about the health of the church. Their fifth album, Come to the Well is a little better, but it actually does do some milder social critiquing at least. However, it also has a distinctly, uncomfortably American-political vibe to it at times which makes me wonder what the nature of their criticism is coming from – issues within the church itself, or perceived political issues that require a religious voting bloc? Their most recent album, Thrive, is arguably their weakest effort yet, with generic, toothless worship music and a lack of conviction.**

Anyway, I guess that’s the theme for this week: disappointment, squandering of talent, failing to grasp your potential, etc. I hadn’t really intended for this to be the case, but it’s what we’ve gotten. So… uh… enjoy the music.

*And if you are then, holy shit, make a comment below because I’m under the impression that no one reads this thing…

**I actually had a bit of an increasingly depressing day because of this. I decided to listen to Casting Crowns’ discography from start to finish to ensure that my recollection of their music was accurate. If anything, post-The Altar and the Door Casting Crowns was actually worse than I remember. Their music just gets so much worse as you go on and shows a really pronounced difference between their good-bad split… especially with the incredibly dull Thrive thrown into the mix (I had not listened to it before this), which makes the weakest bits of The Altar and the Door sound absolutely inspired.

Please follow and like us:

Shirking Responsibility

The spark for this post came to me a while ago, back when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was in the news with its recommendations to ensure that Canadians were aware of the awful legacies of the residential school system. However, as soon as they mentioned that the church was involved with the cultural genocide and abuse which occurred at these schools, my parents’ gut reaction was to blurt out that it was only the Catholic church which was responsible for this.

Setting aside the popular perception that it was only the Catholic church involved*, this reaction bothers me for a number of reasons. First of all, I don’t think it’s being honest – do they really give a shit about the supposed (and in this case incorrect) “facts” of the matter? If I told them that their comprehension of the facts was incorrect, would it cause them to feel real shame for the church’s involvement in the residential schooling system? Somehow I don’t think so, I think that the blame will get shifted in another direction (“oh, well our church and our family aren’t even close to a residential school!”).

This brings me to the second reason why their statement irritated me. If they aren’t really interested in the facts of the situation, then I believe that this attitude is merely a knee-jerk reaction to shift blame. After all, if we believe that the Catholics bear all of the responsibility for residential schools, then it is easy for us to say that they’re the ones who should do something about it. Consequently, this means that we end up not having to do anything – we don’t have to change our worldview, we don’t have to change our attitudes towards people, and hell, we don’t have to make any restitutions to help out people who have been getting screwed over for generations.

Let’s get theoretical though for a moment – let’s pretend for a moment that it was just the Catholics who were involved with residential schools. If this were the case, then our response still shouldn’t change. In spite of what some more fundamentalist Christians might think, Catholics are just as legitimate ambassadors of Jesus as the rest of us. As far as most people outside of the church are concerned, the differences between Catholics and Protestants are minuscule. How do you think it looks for them if we, as Christians, say “residential schools were bad and all, but we weren’t responsible, it was those other Christians who you should be mad at”?

If nothing else, we should accept the responsibility rather than trying to squirm out of it by shifting the blame. Ideally, we should seek to repair the situation as well, even if we do not necessarily believe that we bear any real responsibility to do so – especially since we are always so quick to declare ourselves the “moral” center of the country which is keeping it from slipping into evil. If we become people known for helping others and being a positive force in society, then we won’t need to try to point out that it was “someone else” who was responsible for committing evil – people will realize that they are not representative of the Christians that they know.

I can remember myself saying less than 10 years ago that I didn’t feel bad for indigenous peoples who complained about losing their land, because it happened hundreds of years ago and they should all be over it by now. I am ashamed of the ignorance my past-self. However, I was completely ignorant of the repercussions that the actions of our ancestors had. I was unlearned enough to understand that indigenous people aren’t concerned about the evils of the past, they are concerned about inequalities which affect them today as a result of the echoes from the past. Similarly, people don’t understand why people still complain about slavery, racism or the Confederate flag, but this is because they don’t understand how their effects continue to echo into the present and have resulted in massive levels of inequality for African-Americans (not to mention that basically every problem in Africa can be traced back to the evils of colonialism).

If you don’t take anything else from this post, then at least take this message to heart: next time you hear someone railing about some form of injustice, listen to what they have to say. You don’t necessarily have to agree with them, but give them some respect. Then, instead of passing off the responsibility to someone else, ask how you can help and come to common ground.

*And it’s not like the Protestant Churches are all that united anyway. If they wanted to continue shifting blame they could say “Oh, well it was just the Catholics, Anglicans, United Church, Congressionalists, Presbyterians and Methodists. It wasn’t the Pentacostals though so why should we take the blame?”, or “Those were Methodists, were are Free Methodists so it doesn’t count!”

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 16/09/2015

First up this week is the title track “American Capitalist” by Five Finger Death Punch. I chose this song for a couple reasons. First, because FFDP just released a new album recently. Secondly, I quite like the song (although I would have picked “The Bleeding” if that had been available on Spotify). Thirdly, and more importantly, because FFDP are such a disappointingly awful band. I didn’t realize just how prevalent this assessment was until very recently, but I have been so disappointed by their music for a while now. On paper, they seem to be my sort of band – really heavy, angry, pump-up and anthemic metal. However, in practice, they tend to be absolutely awful. This comes down almost entirely to their lyrics, which typically consist of stringing together profanities and threatening to commit violence, all in an attempt to sound “tough”. I mean, this can work at times (I do like Disturbed quite a bit after all). Unfortunately, FFDP go so far overboard with their lyrics that they read like some kind of self-parody. They come across as less “tough guy you don’t want to mess with” and more like “whiney little bitch”.

That said, when they grow the hell up, they can be pretty enjoyable. Their best songs tend to be their ballads or their radio-friendly tunes… but basically everything else is unlistenable. American Capitalist is about the only album of theirs that I can listen to from start to finish, but even it has some moments that I have to grit my teeth through.

FFDP: you have a lot of talent. You have some pretty good songs in your catalogue. You’re a band that I want to like, but please attempt some maturity. Stop telling us how much you hate everything, how you’re going to kill people, or how you’re going to abuse your girlfriend – you think this makes you tough, but it makes you sound like thou dost protesteth too much.

Uhh… anyway, after that little rant, we have a palate cleanser in the form of “Washed By Blood” by Brian “Head” Welch from his album Save Me From Myself. I think I have said in the past that I really like Brian “Head” Welch and am fascinated by his life story. I also think that Save Me From Myself is the best album ever made by a member of Korn. The album loosely chronicles Welch’s rough upbringing, his drug-fueled life, his salvation and then some struggles he encountered within the church. “Washed By Blood” is the culmination of all of these struggles and marks the promise of salvation.

That said, I think that the album, and “Washed By Blood” in particular, does have one Achilles heel: the lyrics. Yeah, I guess I’m touching on a theme this week. Welch was never really a song writer in Korn, but following his conversion he felt like God was speaking to him to write music. Well, if God did write the lyrics to these songs, then he can be pretty corny at times to say the last. That said, I think that the heartfelt nature of Welch’s lyrics and singing offsets this negative, so the album comes out on top in the end. I’d definitely recommend giving it a listen-through if you find this song interesting.

Please follow and like us:

Prime Ministorial Deathmatch: Part Two

Again, because I can see some people taking this piece about politicians battling each other to the death way too seriously, I’m going to reiterate that this is intended to be a cheeky satirical piece.

So, in order to run the actual battle-to-the-death part of this article, I unfortunately couldn’t get ahold of the real life contenders so I had to turn to the deathmatch simulator, Super Smash Bros, using the game’s Mii Fighter feature to create the combatants and letting them duke it out as 3 CPU fighters. I’ll be using the Punch Out!! stage for the match to minimize the environmental effects and to represent them duking it out in the political arena. For match rules, I’m going with a 3 stock limit to scale back the randomness a little bit. I had intended to put in Items, but I think I accidentally turned them off during the fight.

Smash Bros has three archetypes to choose your fighter from. Stephen Harper is a gunner for a couple obvious reasons. First of all, as a Conservative he has helped repeal some national gun control laws, so it seems like a natural fit. Secondly, if he is truly a robot, then having weapons built into his limbs is a reasonable extrapolation. I also gave him some high-power weaponry, such as a grenade launcher and rockets since he’s more willing to exercise military might on an international scale than his rivals. As for his outfit, I outfitted him in the cowboy gear, of course. He’s a good all-round fighter, but I emphasized his defence over attack slightly. Since he’s clearly the most dangerous fighter of the lot, I gave him a CPU level of 8.

For Mulcair, I chose the brawler archetype of course. His attacks are basically all short-ranged, head-on attacks, meaning he has to get in your face and tear you apart with his bare hands. I emphasized his attack power at the expense of his defence and made his attacks slow in general. This represents his duality – he’s patient, but a pit bull. If he can land an attack, then he’ll do severe damage to whoever ends up on the other end of it. If he closes the gap and times his attacks right then Muclair can be a force to be reckoned with. Mulcair has potential but isn’t quite at the level of Harper himself yet, so I’m setting his CPU level to 7.

Since Trudeau is A New Hope for the Liberals, I made him a sword fighter. Fitting with this theme, I gave him Jedi-like attacks, such as an attack called “hero’s strike” and a reversal slash which launches projectiles back at his opponents (like Trudeau turning his opponents’ attacks into platform features). Due to his youthful vitality and swift rise to prominence, I made him a very fast attacker, although his lack of experience and less-than-imposing posture make his attack power pretty low. I think he’s definitely the dark horse of this battle, and so I have set his CPU level to 5 accordingly – he can still pull off a win, but it’s going to be tough and he’s going to have to make use of his speed and be opportunistic to emerge victorious.

If you want to watch the fight in its entirely, you can do so here (sorry for the low quality, I wish you could save replays to Youtube on 3DS). If not, here’s a quick highlights reel:

Harper and Muclair go at it with each other almost exclusively in the first couple minutes. Trudeau, true to life, basically refuses to join with Muclair, and as a result he and Harper damage each other quite severely while taking a few pot shots at Trudeau every once in a while. In fact, Trudeau barely gets any hits in in the first couple minutes, and spends most of this time dancing around the others while getting nailed every once in a while. Without any support and with his emphasis on attack over defence, Mulcair takes heavy damage early on, losing his first life long before his rivals to a well-placed shot from Harper. With the first blood drawn, Mulcair and Trudeau both go after Harper, but the embattled champion fights them both off effortlessly as they come at him one at a time. Mulcair then gets a cheeky upper cut in on Trudeau, sending him flying into the air and taking Trudeau’s first life in the process. Soon after, all three candidates get into a chaotic tussle, which sees Harper finding an opening on Muclair and sending him off the map for Muclair’s second lost life. Muclair then misses a huge opportunity to take out Harper, who just stands in front of him for a split second. Harper takes advantage of this opening and punishes Mulcair for his laxity. The three then scrap with each other for a good thirty seconds before a heavily-damaged Harper knocks out Trudeau for a second time. Muclair and Trudeau, realizing their mortal peril, both gang up on Harper, but he gets some really good hits in on Muclair before the NDP leader finally lands a heavy smash attack, taking Harper’s first life. Unfortunately, at this point Muclair is too badly damaged and doesn’t stand a chance against the comparatively fresh Harper. Muclair goes down first, and Trudeau quickly finds himself completely outmatched, going down to Harper very quickly.

The winner: reigning champion Steven Harper!

Thanks for reading! Hopefully you’re following the real election and discerning who deserves your vote come this October. And if not… then for the love of God don’t vote!

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 09/09/2015

So it’s been a week since Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain dropped, and holy shit is it ever amazing. I have been savouring it thus far – I’m only about 1/5 of the way through (just captured Emmerich… not a spoiler, it was in the trailers), but it has been an incredible experience. The freedom to approach situations and the ways that every system interconnects is just jaw dropping. Becoming skilled enough to sneak into a base and achieve your objectives undetected is very gratifying. My only real complaint thus far is a pretty obvious one – Quiet looks absolutely ridiculous. Like… embarrassingly so. It’s obviously not a major issue, but I can’t wait until I can actually unlock the XOF uniform for her so that I can actually play the damn game when there are other people present without having to explain what the hell I am playing.

First up this week is “Prom Song” by Countless Thousands from their album We’re Just Really Excited To Be Here. I have been listening to this song a lot lately and I’d argue that it might be the most realistic song that I have ever heard about prom. The song starts out really sentimental, like it might be the sort of thing that a hired band might actually sing during a prom dance. However, as it goes on, it becomes increasingly bitter and angry… which, in my experience, sums up prom perfectly. Maybe I just don’t know enough people, but basically everyone in my social circles had a shitty prom. My best friend got dumped 3 days before prom, but had to take her there anyway. One of my younger brothers got ditched halfway through the prom by his date. One of my other friends almost got arrested when people thought he was going to stab somebody (an event which also irrevocably split my group of friends from that point forth – hooray for prom…). As for myself, I couldn’t get the person I liked at the time to go with me so I just said to hell with it and skipped it. So yeah, it has always been a pretty shitty time of year all round. Beyond all that, I think when we look back at prom, most of us realize that it was a waste of time and money, and that we don’t really care for or miss a lot of the people we left behind, or that those people that we thought we were close with turned on us. “Prom Song” covers that range of truth very succinctly.

Secondly, we have something a little different: “Runaway” by Kanye West (featuring Pusha T) from his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. I had never really listened to Kanye West before I heard this song – I was, of course, well aware of his douche bag reputation in the media, but I had also heard that he was a musical genius in spite of all that. After hearing this song on the Cracked podcast a couple weeks ago, I can say that I am a believer now. “Runaway” is clearly a meticulously crafted song which bucks popular music trends and actually tries to tackle serious topics, while remaining eminently listen-able. I looked up the reception of the song out of curiosity, and saw that most people were tying it to Kanye’s (at the time) new-found fall from the public grace as an apology. While that may be a valid interpretation, I think that the song is arguably more important as a message against men who blame all of their own faults on women, who they view as little more than objects of self-gratification. It’s a pretty perfect fit for this blog and playlist as a result, and I just can’t stop listening to it.

Please follow and like us:

Prime Ministorial Deathmatch: Part One

Note: I would hope that it goes without saying, but just in case, everything in this post is meant to be taken as satire.

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s election period here in Canada. If you live here, then by now you have no doubt been bombarded with campaign rhetoric, attack ads and are no doubt sick of it already. However, I am well aware of what the real question on all of your minds is: which of these potential prime ministers would emerge victorious in a no-holds-barred death match? Luckily you have me, a self-accredited expert on theoretical gladiator showdowns, to help solve this question! So without further ado, let’s check up on our candidates…

Name: Stephen “Dream Crusher” Harper
Age: 56
Party: Conservatives
Fighting Style: Patient, Dirty
Notes: Current national champion, possibly a robot

First up is the current reigning champion, Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Notorious for being a bit of a boring and unemotional prime minister, Stephen Harper is simply hyper-aware of his image and branding. As a result, he has displayed basically no weakness through his career as a prime-minister-by-day, death-battler-by-night. However, the same cannot be said for his support staff, which have plagued Harper’s reign with scandal after scandal. Thus far, Harper himself has always come through with clean hands, but this shows a few aspects of his personality in battle: he has poor choice in friends and so is basically going to be fighting solo and he is devious enough to set up fall guys to make himself appear flawless.

Harper’s career has demonstrated that, no matter how bad the situation looks for him, he should never be counted out. In 2008, when it appeared that the Conservatives would be defeated by a Liberal-NDP coalition government, Harper managed to prorogue parliament to prevent this from happening. This also shows that he likes to play the long game: as a result of the prorogation, the Liberals and NDP began to squabble and the opposition was soon fractured, putting Harper into an even stronger position. He has also destroyed opponent after opponent from the Liberal party, annihilating Paul Martin, Stephan Dion and Michael Ignatief with little effort, which goes so way to showing how dangerous a death battler Harper is. Oh, and all of this in spite of his support staff’s scandals which were occurring at the time.

Of the three combatants, Harper is the only with any experience as a champion, and he knows exactly what it takes to stay on top. Despite one of his opponents being both a politician AND a lawyer, Harper is definitely the dirtiest fighter of our three combatants, hurling verbal attacks at his opponents long before the campaign even started and retaining power through underhanded means. As we’ve seen though, this is his way of prodding his opponents to seek out weakness. Harper is more of a turtling combatant who usually waits until his opponents destroy each other before going on the offensive. As soon as he sniffs out a weakness he’ll attack mercilessly. However, he also is a solo fighter: he can’t rely on his support staff at all because they constantly undermine him, so expect no help from this quarter. Oh and also, if those accusations about him being a robot are true, then that will no doubt be a boon in the arena.

Name: Thomas “Raging Bull” Mulcair
Age: 60
Party: New Democratic Party
Fighting Style: Aggressive
Notes: Epic beard powers

Secondly, we have the official opposition leader, Thomas Mulcair. With his barrel chest, epic beard and “explosive, spittle-specked rages”, Thomas Mulcair comes across as the most physically imposing deathmatch candidate – and this is also in spite of being the oldest as well. From what I have found, he also seems to have the most “humble” origin of the three candidates, being born into a huge middle-class family and having to work construction to pay his way through law school. While there’s some conjecture involved to figure out how the other candidates will overcome their opponents, Mulcair’s clear physical superiority should mean that he can always just overpower them. He has also been described as a “pit bull” in politics – a descriptor which I can only assume also applies to his jaw strength (or perhaps they think he’s a very lovely family companion who would never hurt anyone).

Mulcair was the spearpoint in the current NDP take-over of Quebec, which was the main reason why the NDP has managed to become the official opposition in the last few years. More impressively, Mulcair managed to do so by usurping a riding which was considered a Liberal party stronghold. This descriptor of him taking down a Liberal stronghold against all odds suggests to me that Muclair is basically Solid Snake. However, Mulcair happens to be a bit of a wildcard. While he is the leader of the NDP, he achieved this position after the death of Jack Layton shortly following the last election. He has had quite a successful political career thus far and has demonstrated confident leadership in his short time in the federal spotlight, which sets him up as a far better bet than Justin Trudeau, but still has yet to prove himself in the more competitive arena against Stephen Harper. On the other hand, the death of Jack Layton means that Muclair will want to avenge his mentor, giving him some powerful motivation.

Despite his temperament and being relatively untested at such a high level, Muclair’s leadership over the last few years has assuaged some doubt about whether he can truly make it to the top. He is poised to be a real challenger to the current reigning champion, and there’s little he’d love more than to slay his opponents with his bare hands. If there’s one thing that Mulcair has demonstrated, it’s that if you punch a brick wall and it hasn’t broken, then you just haven’t punched it enough yet.

Name: Justin Trudeau
Age: 43
Party: Liberals
Fighting Style: Unpredictable
Notes: Youthful enthusiasm, not beyond using performance enhancers

Lastly, we have the political rock star, Justin Trudeau. After nearly a decade of being destroyed by Stephen Harper and the Conservatives, the Liberals looked for a chosen one. Sooth-sayers whispered of a prophecy of a young man who would lead their party to glory once again. They thought back to the “good old days”, when they were political gods led by the divisive Pierre Trudeau. But then, lo and behold! A man came to them and soon people were promising a Second Coming. Party leadership bowed down to advance the one they had decided was their prophesied hero, the Son of Trudeau.

The Liberals have a lot riding on Justin Trudeau. While he is their most popular leader in the court of public opinion in quite some time, he is still a major darkhorse in the political arena… and not to mention the deathmatch arena. His primary competitor during the Liberal leadership race was Marc Garneau – a freaking astronaut who would very likely defeat both Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair in a deathmatch by himself. However, Justin Trudeau is more of a wildcard. At 43, he is the youngest candidate by a very wide margin, which gives him a slight advantage for vitality, but also hurts him in terms of his limited experience. He is also a teacher by profession and an art student, which unfortunately doesn’t really help when you’re battling for your life in a blood-stained pit (unless he picked up some great survival tips from The Hunger Games).

Despite his seemingly weak credentials though, Justin Trudeau has proven that he can take a blow. Stephen Harper has been slinging accusations of incompetence at Justin Trudeau since before the election campaign began, and Trudeau has shrugged them off with class. This suggests that Trudeau is level-headed and more intelligent than we give him credit for. It also demonstrates that our current reigning champion is most afraid of Trudeau, which is an interesting power assessment. Harper has also tried to bring him down by letting the public know that Trudeau smoked pot in the past, but Trudeau shrugged this one off with ease. In fact, his public opinion actually went up after this came to light. This shows that Trudeau is the realistic “people’s fighter”, who doesn’t concern himself with the dirty world of political battles. Plus it also demonstrates to me that Trudeau isn’t beyond using performance enhancing drugs to his advantage, like a super-powered Tony Montana.

If nothing else, Trudeau is an unpredictable element which will shake up the deathmatch significantly. He could be a dark horse victory, or he could fizzle out very quickly. Harper seems to be gunning for him most of all, which puts his chances in jeopardy, but Trudeau has also gone on record saying that he won’t cooperate with Mulcair, which makes things even more difficult for him. Furthermore, he is also likely going to focus his attention on bringing down Mulcair, which could give Harper the chance to take them both out. Trudeau is definitely the unpredictable element in this battle – the Brad Wong or Dampierre of the match, if you will.

So now that you’re familiar with the combatants, be sure to tune in for Part 2 early next week when I pit them against one another in a no-holds-barred fight to the death! Who will claim the real prize this election period, the elusive title of deathmatch champion of Canada? Only one can claim the crown!

Please follow and like us:

IC2S Playlist Update 02/09/2015

Continuing the August 21st album analyses from last week, we have “Save Our Last Goodbye” by Disturbed from Immortalized. I haven’t entirely made up my mind on how I feel about Immortalized yet, but I’m starting to feel like it might be their weakest album in quite some time. Previously, I felt like Disturbed were improving with every subsequent album release, but Immortalized feels very “same-y”. I know that this is a complaint which has dogged Disturbed for quite some time, but it rings especially true on this album. The songs sound very similar to their Asylum-era stuff, but the real problem is that a good portion of the album feels like b-side material, with only a few tracks really standing out. This is especially problematic since they were supposed to change up their sound during the hiatus, but they sound the same as ever… if not worse. Now to be fair, they do change it up occasionally, with “The Light”, “Fire It Up” and “The Sound of Silence” all being quite different than we’re used to with Disturbed. However, of the three, I only really liked “The Light”. “Fire It Up” is ruined by ridiculously stupid lyrics, and “The Sound of Silence” didn’t really work for me (I do know that some people were really happy with it though so to each his own).

While I enjoy “Save Our Last Goodbye” and think that it’s one of the better tracks on the album, I think we were really spoiled with “The Vengeful One”. Nothing else on the album even comes close to being as good as that song. It also doesn’t help that The Awakening (released on the same day) was so good, it makes Immortalized feel much more inadequate in comparison. While I enjoy Immortalized overall, it is just a bit of a disappointment – I’d probably say it’s their 4th best album (out of 6).

Secondly this week we have “Way to Fall” by Starsailor, from their album Love is Here. The reason I picked this song this week is because of the monumental release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. “Way to Fall” was the end credits song in MGS3: Snake Eater, which was definitely my favourite game in the franchise. It’s also a great song in its own right, but when paired with the incredible ending sequence in Snake Eater, it takes on a whole new depth of tragic meaning. That said, I would have liked to get “Here’s To You” from MGS5: Ground Zeroes, but it sadly is not on Spotify.

I have been playing a lot of Ground Zeroes in anticipation for The Phantom Pain, and have had that song stuck in my head for weeks now. I’m really glad I jumped back in though – the game has a really rewarding skill curve. When I first jumped back in, I was getting spotted constantly by enemies that I didn’t notice, putting me in messy situations constantly. However, as I improved, suddenly I was able to go whole missions undetected, twitch-spotting enemies on the fly, consistently headshotting enemies at over 50m with my tranquilizer pistol, etc. It was quite fun and rewarding to improve so dramatically, when I was so hopeless only a few days earlier. Plus, I’d definitely recommend getting all the XOF patches – the Jamais Vu mission in particular is an extremely fun diversion. I imagine I have now gotten at least 10 hours out of the game, which makes me feel better about the $35 price tag which was so controversial when it released.

Please follow and like us: