• Annabelle (2014)

     

    "Annabelle" certainly doesn't reinvent the horror genre but it's still an atmospheric, diversified and gripping movie that quickly grabs your attention and will haunt you until the very end. This movie has a better pace and no dull moments compared to "The Conjuring" but it's not as intense and scary as "Insidious" for example.

    I like the fact that the movie includes a little bit more than the usual supernatural elements. When the satanic cult members assassinate an old couple and attack the two main actors, the movie quickly starts to be really gripping. When a fire breaks out and menaces the pregnant main actress, most viewers were also on the edges of their seats. The haunting scene leading to and involving a stroller smashed by a truck is also very intense. It's a good thing that the entire movie doesn't only play at one location and only involves supernatural phenomenons.

    "Annabelle" convinces with its steadily growing sinister atmosphere, a credible acting performance, a solid camera work without any unnecessary shaking, fitting sound effects and an atmospheric soundtrack. This movie includes almost no blood and gore effects and no obvious special effects. These elements make the scenario feel closer to some classic pioneer movies of the seventies. The realistic tone of the film also makes the movie more intense and easier to get into for most people. 

    Even though the movie avoided a few stereotypes such as an exorcism, some parts were still highly predictable: the scared housewife nobody believes in, the wicked demon trying to take possession of a child's innocent soul and the heroic actions of an old pastor attempting to save a young family and community members are elements that horror movie fans have seen numerous times before. That's why the movie lacked some originality and ultimately tension towards the end as the ending was also quite predictable.

    Fans of traditional horror movies or more recent outputs by James Wan and his colleagues should watch this movie at the cinema as they are likely to enjoy this film. This movie isn't the best of the year but still a professionally executed and highly above average horror flick. I still hope that the next movies made by the makers of the last few horror blockbusters are going to write a more courageous script for their next project.
     

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  • Exodus – Blood In Blood Out

    October 14, 2014 in Reviews by Sebastian Kluth

    Exodus2014Exodus Blood in Blood Out (2014)

    Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth

    Over the past few years, I’ve really grown into the thrash metal scene, and grabbed onto several records by the American “Big Four” and the “Teutonic Three”, as well as honorable mentions like New Jersey legends Overkill, the more progressive Quebecois from Voivod, and even obscure bands like the Japanese Sex Machineguns. Exodus is not only one of the latest bands I’ve come to in the genre, but overall, one of those few thrash metal bands I can’t seem to get into despite some fans insisting that Bonded By Blood is one of (if not the best) thrash metal releases ever, and that this band should be considered as one of the “Big Four” instead of Anthrax.

     

    From my point of view, Exodus features exchangeable fast and “brutal” riffs, inconsistent bass guitar work (which has some shining moments while being completely inaudible in other tracks) and technically sound drumming. All of these elements sound close to early Overkill and maybe Kreator, but without reaching the quality level of these two bands. The worst thing about this new record is the vocals, however. It sounds like an odd mixture of an angry Donald Duck and Overkill’s Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, but Steve “Zetro” Souza’s bickered and monotonous barking has no recognition value whatsoever for me.

    New record Blood In Blood Out starts with an overlong and plodding intro before evolving into a completely exchangeable ten-minute long thrash metal song with a very average rhythm section, riffs that were worn out two decades ago, monotonous lead vocals supported by occasional gang shouts, and a guest musician that nobody has ever heard of and who feels like he wasn’t even there at all. Oh, wait, it’s not a ten-minute long track, these are actually two songs! They sound so alike and unspectacular that I honestly didn’t realize on first listen that they were actually separate tracks. This is the recurring theme of Blood In Blood Out, and it doesn’t get any better.

    “Salt The Wounds” got some attention prior to the release of this album because it features a guest appearance from Metallica guitarist and ex-Exodus member Kirk Hammett. This was a clever strategy to push the release a little bit, as the last few Exodus albums didn’t sell very well and got rather underwhelming reviews. It’s no surprise then that this song can’t fulfill its expectations and is even amongst the weakest tracks here. The tinny drum sound and boring riffs that don’t suit the vocal performance at all are a big letdown. Hammet’s predictable wah-wah-solo makes me wonder if he can still play anything without using that pedal over and over again. The lyrics feel like a laughable Cannibal Corpse rip-off and don’t make things any better. Instead of being one of the few highlights, this song completely backfires.

    “Body Harvest” has a simple but energizing chorus and a brutal lead riff that shakes things up, but instead of delivering three minutes of energizing punk-driven thrash metal, Exodus stretches the song to six and a half minutes and includes a completely unspectacular instrumental section that ruins an otherwise good song. It seems to be a laughable current trend for grown-old thrash metal bands to stretch their songs to unbearable lengths without any reason. One can find several similar examples of this on Blood In Blood Out.

    Exodus invited a third guest singer in the form of Testament’s Chuck Billy in an attempt to get even more recognition. Testament is surely more interesting than Exodus, but the vocals don’t differ enough to build up an interesting contrast to the main singer on this unimpressive seven-minute long piece of boredom. By the way, another song about “BTK” is far from being original. Please listen to Church Of Misery’s atmospheric and gripping instrumental song of the same name instead.

    Is there actually any bearable track on this shiny new frisbee? Actually, yes. “My Last Nerve” has a few interesting guitar melodies leading into a chorus that differs from all the others. This song manages to develop a certain atmosphere and is technically stunning as well. There is a short break dominated by vivid use of the bass guitar, which is a welcome change of style where Jack Gibson can finally show off his talent.

    One good song out of eleven or twelve is definitely not enough. Exodus has released not only another weak record, but one of the most uninspired albums of the genre that I have ever listened to. It was a true pain to sit through the entire record multiple times. Do yourself a favor and ignore the clever marketing strategy built around Kirk Hammett and Chuck Billy’s guest appearances. Let Exodus be that overlooked underground band that only a few grown-old genre maniacs appreciate for nostalgic reasons. There are far better American thrash metal bands around, old and new both, that are worthier of your attention. There is only one person I can think of who might be happy about this release: Timo Tolkki. Angels Of The Apocalypse is officially not the worst record of the year. Congratulations!

    0.75 // 5

     

     

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  • Concert review: Blaze Bayley, Shock, Joe Thrasher & Rusted live at Mavericks, Ottawa (13/10/14)

     

    On October 13, 2014 or Thanksgiving, I decided to spend the end of another truly splendid autumn day at Ottawa’s rock and metal pub Mavericks to see charismatic singer Blaze Bayley in concert with supporting band Maiden Quebec. A total of three bands were opening in front of a small but enthusiastic crowd around fifty people that night.

    Pink Lake in Gatineau Park on October 13, 2014

    The first band to hit the stage was hard rock and heavy metal band Rusted from Montreal and Rouyn-Noranda. I had discovered this band a few years ago when I saw their promising debut EP “Hit By” in an Archambault store in Montreal and by now the band has released its first full length release entitled “Rock Patrol”. Rusted plays an emotional mixture of melodic hard rock and powerful heavy metal with a few glam and hair metal elements. The quintet seems to come straight out of the wild eighties but its style doesn’t sound old-fashioned for three simple reasons. First of all, Rusted were able to prove that night that they are an excellent live band and are able to rock even small crowds of only twenty people as an opening act around 7:15 p.m. on a very small stage. At a certain point, some musicians even left the restricted area and decided to play directly in the crowd which heated the atmosphere up a little bit. Both the musicians and the fans had a whole lot of fun when they got into close contact. Second, the band is performing its music with talent and an enormous dose of passion. Third, Rusted are extremely credible and one can feel that they are not just posing in old-fashioned clothes to look cool or trying to copy some of their idols. Rusted really stand for an authentic rock and roll spirit that distinguishes them from so many similar retro rock bands that jump on the bandwagon but feel like pale copies of their idols. The quintet really played a tight set around thirty-five minutes or so, including powerhouse drumming, vivid bass work, excellent guitar melodies as well as melodic and powerful high-pitched vocals that actually have their very own note and are enjoyable to listen to. During some other stops of Blaze Bayley’s “Soundtrack of my Life” tour, Rusted played just before him and it’s a shame that the humongous talent of this great live band was somewhat wasted with such an early schedule. I would definitely attend other Rusted concerts in the future and can only recommend to check these youngsters out if you care for passionate hard rock and powerful heavy metal music.

    Rusted delivered an extremely powerful set

    The second band to hit the stage that night was local trio Joe Thrasher that has two EPs and two full length releases under its belt. The band also performed very well despite the restricted space on stage and a rather small crowd. Towards the end of its set, the band invited an additional singer on stage for a couple of songs who didn't stop to jump around or start a few short mosh pit attempts in the crowd. Sometimes these attempts looked a little bit ridicolous but the singer still did a good job. Most fans seemed to appreciate the band’s furious mixture of heavy and thrash metal elements. Joe Thrasher actually delivered a few strong and catchy live anthems such as “Speed Kills” or the brand new “Terror in Tokyo” which was very well received by the crowd. The fact that I was able to get into several songs of the band even though I got exposed to them for the very first time speaks volumes for the live qualities and the solid song writing capacities of the trio.

    Joe Thrasher got some help from an additional vocalist for a couple of songs

    The third opening act was local veteran quartet Shock. The band had been formed as early as 1985 and had opened for several famous acts like Anthrax, Megadeth and Motörhead in the past. Shock has just released its very first official full length release entitled “Once Denied” in 2013 that offers a mixture of old school heavy, thrash and speed metal. The band managed to show off its experience and talent. Shock delivered a sweating forty-five minute long live performance and made the crowd move quite a bit. The trio is the kind of band that is even more energizing on stage than on a studio record.

    Shock delivered forty-five minutes of furious thrash metal

    Even though all three opening bands were great, I think that Rusted convinced me the most because they moved quite a bit on stage, interacted very well with the crowd and offered the most diversified genre mixture. Joe Thrasher’s performance had a perfect length to make the crowd move and the band’s catchy thrash metal definitely has a lot of potential. Shock definitely performed with energy but the band’s set was maybe a few minutes too long and several songs ended up sounding a little bit too alike towards the end. I think the band would have been even more efficient and intense if they had been the first to get on stage.

    A glimpse at Blaze Bayley's regular set list

    After Rusted, Joe Thrasher and Shock, the crowd was impatiently waiting for Blaze Bayley but the fifty fans or so had to wait for quite a long time because there was a technical problem with a guitar amp. Opening band Rusted had to help out the musicians of Maiden Quebec with a new amp to fix the problem. This took around forty-five minutes and Blaze Bayley got on stage more than thirty minutes later than scheduled. That’s why he had to cut five potential encore songs (“Fear of the Dark”, “The Trooper”, “Hallowed Be thy Name”, "2 Minutes to Midnight" and "The Number of the Beast") from the set. Despite this inconvenient detail, Blaze Bayley’s performance was phenomenal. Right from the start, he got as close to the fans as he could to shake hands, hug people in the first row and animate the entire crowd to cheer, move and sing along to the songs. Between the tracks, Blaze Bayley told some interesting short anecdotes about his thirty-one year long career. He was talking so down to earth, honestly and yet passionately that everyone in the crowd was moved by the achievements and the performance of this man. Blaze Bayley offered a balanced mixture of Iron Maiden songs and his earlier solo material that his backing band Maiden Quebec had learned in a few weeks only. The stunning thing was that the crowd was celebrating Blaze Bayley’s solo material as much as the Iron Maiden songs. After the concert, some fans even told Blaze Bayley that he didn’t need to play any Iron Maiden songs because his solo material was just as great. Among his solo stuff, Blaze Bayley played a truly emotional performance of “Soundtrack of My Life”, a fast paced version of “The Launch”, a melodic rendition of “Ten Seconds” and an incredibly powerful delivery of “Kill and Destroy” among others. Concerning the Iron Maiden songs, my personal highlights were the powerful opener “Lord of the Flies”, the epic performance of the incredibly moving “The Clansman” where the entire crowd was singing along, the pitiless rendition of the underrated heavy metal killer single “Futureal” and the emotional concert closer “Wasted Years” that Blaze Bayley had already performed very well during his acoustic concert with heavy metal band Some of the Few in Montreal last year.

    Blaze Bayley in action

    After roughly eighty-five minutes, Blaze Bayley didn’t leave his fans alone even though it was already past midnight. He would instead go to the bar, have a chat with several fans for more than one hour, sign many different items and pose for quite a lot of memorable pictures. Blaze Bayley even offered and signed his own personal tour jacket to one of his fans. When a crew member reminded Blaze Bayley that he would have only one single jacket left for the remaining tour dates, he said that this wasn’t a problem for him and that he preferred to smell bad and offer a faithful fan a unique gift. This showed once again that Blaze Bayley is not only a great performer but also a great human being. It was only when his crew members told him that it was time to leave now and that he had another concert in another city the next day that Blaze Bayley slowly decided to leave around 1:20 p.m. in the morning.

    Blaze Bayley and me after his concert around 1:15 p.m.

    I think that every single fan left this intimate concert with very positive memories. For some people it may be hard to understand what there is so special about attending a show of a rather unpopular ex-Iron Maiden singer who is playing old-fashioned heavy metal music. Once you have seen this credible, honest and passionate man whose voice seems to get better and better in concert each year with your own eyes and ears, you don’t have any questions anymore and you just want more. I would definitely be back in the first row as soon as Blaze Bayley comes to tour Canada again, even if I had to take two days off and travel hundreds of kilometers to the next bigger city. Until then, I will cherish the memories of this amazing night, share the amazing pictures taken with this outstanding artist, listen to his excellent solo material and wait for his new ambitious project that may come out by the end of 2015 or in the beginning of the year 2016.

    Blaze Bayley and me in Montreal in November 2013

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  • Concert review: GrimSkunk & Greta Knights live at Le Petit Chicago, Gatineau (11/10/14)

    On October 11, 2014, which was a truly beautiful autumn day, I went to see Quebec’s eclectic alternative rock band GrimSkunk for the fourth time in four years. After assisting two memorable concerts in Chicoutimi in April 2010 and October 2011 as well as the release party of the band’s amazing last record “Set Fire!” in Montreal in May 2012, the energizing and original quintet now performed in the small pub Le Petit Chicago in the old Hull section of Gatineau, only meters away from the Canadian capital Ottawa.

    A beautiful autumn day in Gatineau and Ottawa

    As usual, GrimSkunk started to play quite late. Three out of four times when I saw them, the band actually played much later than originally announced. On that day, the concert was scheduled to start around 9:30 p.m. but an opening act was added at the last minute. Even the opening act only started to play around 10:05 p.m. after the dramatic 3:4 shootout win by the Montreal Canadiens against the Philadelphia Flyers. This gave me the occasion to admire some interesting and very political merchandise by the main act, chat and have a drink with a few fans and watch an entertaining hockey game on a small television.

    A nice walk through the nature before the beginning of the concert

    Once the hockey game was over, the trance-core band Greta Knights went on to deliver a weird but interesting set around thirty minutes. I’ve never heard such as weird mixture of melodic over-the-top dubstep and techno elements on one side and brutal metalcore passages on the other. The songs were filled with breakdowns and more or less radical changes of pace and style and it was rather difficult to get into this kind of music. Each time I appreciated a charming melody or started to move my body to wild beats and gripping riffs, the band threw these elements over board and radically changed the pattern which left several people in the crowd slightly confused. With some more consistent song writing, this could have been one of the most interesting bands I had discovered in recent times but as it turned out to be the band was only strangely original but not truly brilliant.

    Some people in the crowd really adored Greta Knights' performance while others were rather confused

    After this unique and controversially received opening act, the five members of GrimSkunk took their time to get ready for the show and only hit the stage around 11:10 p.m. At that point, it was sure that I was going to miss my last bus ride home and had to walk for around one hour or pay a taxi to get back. I don’t mind walking for a while or taking a taxi from time to time but when a concert is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. I think that it’s definitely too late to start playing almost two hours late when some people need to get home somehow or even have to go to work the next day.

    The entire performance by Greta Knights was filmed by a crew member

     

    Despite the late start, the bar was still filled with a respectable crowd, including almost as many women as men, a few new faces, several more recent fans in their early twenties as well as a couple of veterans who were at least twice as old. I even saw a few people wearing old Groovy Aardvark pullovers and an old hippy with a long white beard and long white hair who was enjoying the band’s mixture of relaxing psychedelic and progressive tones mixed with faster punk rock and metal elements here and there right in the front row. Sadly, the sympathetic fan had to leave the bar in a hurry during the encore part and collapsed on the sidewalk right in front of the location which made me feel worried and even slightly shocked. After a few minutes when some helpful people in the crowd assisted him, the old man finally seemed to feel better and even got back beside the stage before the concert ended. That dangerous event gladly had a happy ending.

    The sympathetic hippie in sandals and a colourful shirt was still enjoying the vivid show at this point

     

    GrimSkunk opened the show with the brilliant opener from the last record entitled “Falling Into Shadow” featuring aboriginal sounds from Australia and psychedelic hooks that could come from one of the better U2 releases. Right after this experimental masterpiece with its liberating and catchy chorus, the band changed its genre and delivered the angry and fast-paced punk rock anthem with explicit lyrics called “Fuck Shit Up”. The band would go on to vary between both extremes over the next ninety minutes or so and play a lot of classics from the early years as well, including the French “Le gouvernement songe”, the Spanish “¡Ya basta!” and the French-Spanish “Perestroiska”. After roughly seventy-five minutes, the band left the stage for a while but quickly came back for a hypnotizing encore featuring long instrumental tunes like “Mahmoud’s Dream” before dedicating the final fun anthem “Mange d’la marde” to the annoying casting show La Voix. Even after this explicit hymn, the band wasn’t done and went back to perform an extended version of the sinister and energizing “Rooftop Killer” that made some people in the crowd go so insane in the improvised circle pit that the keyboard on stage nearly fell to the ground.

    Even though guitarist and singer Franz Schuller was on crutches and seated, he performed with the same usual passion

     

    The concert was over around 12:40 p.m. but I decided to stay at the bar to chat with a few fans and band members until the bar was about to close around 2 a.m. I took me another seventy-five minutes or so to get home but the energizing concert and great night had definitely been worth the long walk back. Even though it was the fourth time I have seen GrimSkunk so far, I would definitely go and see them again if they happen to perform anywhere close to where I live.

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  • Concert review: B.A.R.F., Insurrection, My Shadow & ...From the Deep live at Le Petit Chicago, Gatineau (26/09/14)

    On September 26, 2014, I assisted a truly energizing sold-out concert at Le Petit Chicago in the old Hull section of Gatineau, only a few minutes away from the magnificent Canadian capital Ottawa. The nice bar doesn’t only offer an interesting selection of the province’s most promising microbreweries and a small terrace but also a little stage where fans can get quite close to the bands.

    Some fans are getting some fresh air in front of Le P'tit Chicago between the performances of local bands My Shadow and Insurrection

     

    The first band to hit the stage in front of a steadily growing crowd around fifty people that Friday night was the underground black metal band …From the Deep which actually performed for the very first time in the “belle province”. The quintet from Ottawa performed with a lot of passion and singer Graham Cwinn actually left the stage to get involved in small circle pits, interact with several people in the crowd and involve everybody in the performance. Sometimes, he appeared just behind, next or in front of me while he performed his varied and highly passionate extreme metal vocals. This dynamical and vivid approach attracted more and more people from the bar and the terrace that actually came to see the opening band performing an intense thirty-minute long set. The band has been around for a while but should definitely get more attention after this impressing performance and I can’t wait to listen to and support their first official full length release. …From the Deep should definitely come and play again in Gatineau or elsewhere in Quebec as this province is quite open-minded towards passionate black metal music.

    ...From the Deep's singer Graham Cwinn was walking around the whole bar while performing some haunting extreme metal vocals

    The next band to perform was melodic death metal and metalcore quintet My Shadow featuring members from both sides of Ottawa River. The quintet has been around for ten years so far and just released its first studio record one year ago. My Shadow played with a whole lot of energy for around forty minutes. The band’s energizing stage performance and especially singer Louis Gratton's charismatic intercations with the fans conquered the crowd by storm even though the band wasn’t as extroverted and intense as the opening black metal band.

    My Shadow's singer Louis Gratton cheers to the crowd with a fresh beer at the end of their performance

    Up next was local grooving and pitiless death metal band Insurrection Insurrection that has been around for over ten years, released three studio records so far and played in different Canadian provinces over the past few years. There were actually quite a few fans in the crowd who had mainly come to assist their performance. The band interacted originally and vividly with the crowd by inviting their old and new fans to sing along as loud as they could, get involved in massive circle pits and play an amusing short football game that definitely set the crowd on fire for around forty-five minutes. The band performed as passionate as if they had been the true main act of the night and definitely won a few new fans that evening.

    The inredibly strong local act Insurrection encouraged the crowd to play a little football game in the moshpit

    The last band to enter the stage was hardcore thrash metal band B.A.R.F. (which stands for “Blasting All Rotten Fuckers”) for a set featuring more than twenty songs and lasting for seventy-five to ninety minutes including a strong encore part. The legendary band had been founded as early as in 1986 and split up in 1999 after four powerful studio releases, several uncompromising demos and a few energizing live records. The Montrealers reunited in early 2012 and just released a brand new full length effort entitled “Brûle, Consume, Torture” featuring thirteen short but massive new hits that are as strong as the band’s original material. From the beginning on, the unchained quartet set the crowd on fire and delivered one pitiless extreme metal anthem after the other with only a few short breaks to tell a few funny anecdotes, celebrate the birthday of a crew member or announce that parts of the concert were going to be filmed for the upcoming video clip of the single “Whiskey”. Especially during the performance of this joyous drinking anthem, even the calmest people in the packed crowd went completely mad and tried their very best to deliver a few unforgettable moments for the cameras. I simply can’t wait to see the final result soon enough.

    B.A.R.F. are almost thirty years old but still offered a breathless ninety-minute long hardcore extreme metal slaughterfest

     

    After roughly four hours and a half of sweating extreme metal including a few short breaks between the different performances, I left the location just in time to catch the very last midnight bus to go home. All four bands had performed above my expectations and I will definitely try to catch some of them up again over the next few months. I hope that more great rock and metal acts will continue to perform in the often overlooked city of Gatineau in the near future because the crowd that evening was by far the most energizing, impressive and passionate thing I’ve seen since I’m living in that region.

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