• Tatort: Friss oder stirb (2018)

    The Germanophone Tatort television series has been around for five decades and far over one thousand episodes have been produced. Despite weird recent experiments including topics like vampirism and psychedelic drug-infused dream sequences, the television series has been repeating itself for years and it might be time to finally pull the plug with its fiftieth anniversary. Many people keep watching the series because there is a serious lack of alternatives but that doesn't justify its dreadful longevity. Such a popular television series also represents a country and its people to a certain degree and what we can see are depressed characters in grey settings uttering repetitive powerless social criticism. It's hard to empathise with anything here and the time for a positive change might be overdue now.

    Let's start on a positive note regarding this particular German-Swiss episode. Some of the landscapes around Lucerne look gorgeous. There are a few brief action sequences that interrupt the vapid sequences of shallow dialogues. The ending is ambiguous as it leaves some questions unanswered which surprisingly challenges the viewer but probably frustrates most of them that are used to digest cold hard facts.

    Everything else is as stereotypical as in most episodes of this tired old television series. The settings are cold, grey and monotonous from start to finish. The characters look stiff and often speak, think and walk in slow motion. The camera work is equally conservative and frozen.

    The plot is stunningly shallow and includes random scenes like a houseowner sharing a beer with a perpetrator whom he has just tried to kill, a stiff housewife suddenly killing her husband right after he got randomly accused of having impregnated another woman and a teenage girl needlessly confessing to a crime in front of a random police officer and an angry perpetrator with an entire special task force listening via modern technology.

    Some scenes from the episode could unintentionally be taken from old-fahsioned slapstick comedy movies, such as the fighting perpetrator and police officer accidentally opening a door that gives the female police officer a welcome chance to escape and get help, the perpetrator preparing a pizza in front of his victims just to forget it burning in the oven or the houseowner angrily shooting at the prepetrator just to conveniently run out of bullets when they finally stand face to face.

    The episode also has the usual moralizing tone which can already be found in the title that tells us that rich people believe they can do whatever they like. Needless to say that thousand of movies have had the same moralizing topic. It's particulalry sarcastic coming from a team of wealthy producers financed by taxpayers who are in return fed with shallow stereotypes over and over again.

    It's ironic that the interesting landscapes, brief action sequences and partially open ending still make these ninety minutes of boredom one of the better Tatort episodes in recent memory. If you ever wondered why German movies were revolutionary in the twenties and thirties of the last century and at least still influential in the sixties and seventies but have fallen behind in past years, watching this vapid episode will give you some honest answers because everything here is stiff, cold and artificial. If this is the best German television or cinema can do, then it reveals a lot about an overtly serious society that wishes to inspire change but is still stuck in tired old repetitive stereotypes. This might sound like a contradiction and it is which tells us a lot about the current state of affairs in and around Germany. If you were a foreigner and interested in discovering the essence of contemporary German culture, this episode would at least be an unintentionally revealing social science study of a struggling society in a country torn between its conservative past and confused by a rapidly changing world around it. 

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  • Korpiklaani - Wayfarers Live (2018)

    The thing that has always fascinated me about Korpiklaani is how easily the band combine melancholic and uplifting soundscapes. This can happen in separate songs that complement one another perfectly but also in single tracks with concise and fluid song writing. Other genre veterans like Turisas experiment aimlessly, Ensiferum often lose themselves in endless epics and Eluveitie seem to repeat themselves despite significant line-up changes. Korpiklaani have found their very own style combining sorrowful and joyful sounds but keep things interesting with minor experiments. In addition to this, the Finnish folk metal sextet are particularly entertaining on stage.

    This exclusive extended play with a charismatic cover artwork underlines the band's unique combination of soundscapes, showcases their strong and vibrant live performances and promotes the group's tenth studio record in only fifteen years. The first four live tracks are all taken from studio record Kulkija, the band's longest and probably most diverisfied and epic release to date. The final two tracks are classics that fans have adored dancing, drinking and singing along to for about a whole decade.

    A perfect example for the band's capacity to shift soundscapes within one single song is the instrumental "Pellervoinen". The track starts in mid-pcaed melancholy that slowly but steadily evolves into a danceable and merriful folk song. The lack of vocals showcases a flexible rhythm section, energetic guitar play and a clever use of harmonious accordion and violin sounds. The band should write more instrumental tracks in my book.

    Other songs show the band's opposite soundscapes separately. "Aallon Alla" is a mid-paced track with an almost ominous atmosphere. The guitar sound is surprisingly raw as if it came from an underground extreme metal band. The folk melodies however are performed smoothly and contrast the guitar work cleverly. The rhythm section is gentle, combining melodic folk sounds and harsh guitar tones accurately. Despite its brief length, the song is detailed, epic and intelligent. Similar artists like Wintersun would have taken at least twice the time to combine all those ideas but Korpiklaani manage to keep things short, focused and balanced without ever sounding rushed.

    On the other side, the band classic "Happy Little Boozer" is fast, joyful and simplistic. It's a song to bang your head, yell along and raise your drinking horn filled with mead to. It's a relentless party anthem that is still somewhat charming in its sheer simplicity. It's also one of the very few tracks with English lyrics which is celebrated by fans from all around the world.

    Even though Korpiklaani have just released an extensive live record with Live at Masters of Rock one year ago, Wayfarers Live has its reasons to be because four tracks are brand new and weren't included on the previous release. All six tracks are as a matter of fact exclusive recordings that were played during three different Festival appearances this past summer. The band's ability to combine melancholic and merriful soundscapes never fails to impress. The new tracks are equally vibrant as the classics from the early years. The band have astonishing chemistry on stage and are obviously enjoying themselves to the fullest. Folk metal fans should certainly get their hands on this highly entertaining compilation of diversified live tracks that represent the band's potential accurately.

    Final rating: 80%

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  • Grim Christmas - Grim Christmas (2018)

    Do you believe in Satan?

    I used to believe in Santa. Does that count?

    Just like this idiotic dialogue from Kevin Smith's controversial cult comedy movie Yoga Hosers, Grim Christmas' self-titled debut record combines Satan and Santa Claus. Jon Lervold, the man behind this odd one-man project who plays all instruments simplistically and sings all the vocals simplistically, intended to simplistically convert public domain Christmas carols to minor keys reimagined in the context of black metal.

    This is a joke but a solid joke because it only lasts fourteen and a half minutes, including a two-minute long acoustic guitar instrumental closer with "Epilogue: Auld Lang Syne" that actually shows some solid musicianship. It's certainly better than Tarja's suicidal From Spirits and Ghosts (Score for a Dark Christmas). This record here is short, funny and entertaining. The grim and frostbitten "Silent Night" and blistering opener "Jingle Bells" are probably the most amusing songs here.

    If you are sick and tired of the same old carols playing in exchangeable shopping malls between Halloween and Christmas, you can have a brief laugh with this entertaining release. Once you have listened to it, you can shelve it for the next twelve months and play it to your friends in the future. Grim Christmas is good for what it is, no more, no less.

    Final rating: 50%

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  • By the numbers - A review of Over Kill's Last Man Standing

    This extended play was released with German metal magazine Legacy to promote Over Kill's upcoming studio record The Wings of War.

    This record includes two brand new songs from the upcoming full length release. "Last Man Standing" has a great instrumental build-up that intensifies before exploding into a dynamic traditional thrash metal track that will open the new record with a bang. "Head of a Pin" has a slower groove that makes it more rhythmic and menacing while the vocals also sound particularly variable and gritty.

    Two exclusive live tracks are included on this release. The dynamic and raw classic thrash metal anthem "Hello from the Gutter" was recorded at Rock Hard Festival back in 2015. Dead Boys cover "Sonic Reducer" was recorded at the same festival three years later and Over Kill truly managed to make the song sound like one of their own.

    A special gimmick is the studio cover version of The Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" which was originally included on the Japanese version of Over Kill's Bloodletting record that came out right after the collection of cover songs called Coverkill a little less than twenty years ago. While covering such an old rock 'n' roll track sounds like a cool idea and Over Kill certainly adapted the track to their own grinding thrash metal style, this version lacks the bitter sarcasm and hypnotiying melody of the original track. Over Kill sounds better when adapting hardcore punk songs and should come around with another collection of cover songs in the near future.

    In the end, Over Kill's Last Man Standing will certainly appeal to traditional thrash metal fans in general and to Over Kill's numerous followers in particular. However, the two new tracks are too much by the numbers to leave a deeper impression, the live material is solid but not outstanding and the cover song is somewhat disappointing. This release itself is only interesting for faithful collectors but you'll at least get an outstanding magazine with it.

    Final rating: 70%

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