• Crossfaith - Ex_Machina (2018)

    Crossfaith is a Japanese quintet that plays a quite unique genre called electronic metalcore. While the concept sounds creative on paper, Ex_Machina is extremely hard to sit through even with an open mind. The final result sounds like an odd mixture of Skrillex and Suicide Silence without achieving the skillfulness of the former and the aggression of the latter. Bands like KoRn have also tried to mix electronic elements with modern metal stylistics and failed so it's no surprise that a relatively young band experiences misfortune where even veterans have had a hard time.

    The main problem is that the songs are too short, compact and aggressive. Instead of balancing the two different genres skillfully, they often overtone, disharmonize and clash. Especially the first half of the record is overtly annoying and makes you think of a group of unskilled musicians who are producing noise rather than music. The additional vocalists make matters worse and add more elements of distraction to an already overwhelming genre potpourri. The overloaded production doesn't make the final result any easier to digest.

    The second half of the record shows some promise though. The songs are a little bit more balanced, calmer and imaginative. The electronic elements are more present, the vocals have a cleaner touch and there are no unnecessary guest appearances. It's nothing to go crazy about but a welcome change compared to the provokingly relentless first half.

    Crossfaith's Ex_Machina was described as a modern party album with an intellectual background related to the dystopian lyrical concept by magazines like Kerrang!. However, we get an album that offers a dated mixture of aggressive metalcore and dubstep sounds that could come straight from the beginning of the millennium and a dystopian background story that sounds repetitive after a streak of ten years that have been flooded with dystopian records, novels and movies. Crossfaith's Ex_Machina is neither enjoyable nor intellectual, it's a nerve-firing mismatch of genres that could only work with a calmer, more organized and more progressive approach.

    Final rating: 30%

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  • Thugs of Hindostan (2018)

    I'm certainly no expert of Bollywood films, I'm not familiar with the actresses, actors and director involved and can't compare this movie to any others of this kind. I simply watched the film at the cinema because I like epic pirate movies. The plot summary sounded intriguing, so I watched the trailer which was decent enough for me to give this film a try. I expected a good average entertaining film but what I finally got is one of the best films of the year. I neither understand nor support the numerous exaggeratedly negative reviews for this movie. Watch the trailer instead and decide whether it's decent enough for you to give this film a chance just like I did.

    The film starts in 1795 when the Indian subcontinent is progressively controlled by British invaders. One of the last few independent, powerful and wealthy kings gets tricked, humiliated and murdered by a ruthless British East India Company officer. His daughter survives the massacre and escapes with a veteran officer. Many years later the daughter has become a skilled fighter and the general has become the leader of a group of thugs who specialize in sea-based warfare and expose a serious challenge to the expanding British East India company. The officer in command who once killed the king wants to find the hiding place of the thugs and kill all of them. Charming, cunning and selfish criminal Firangi Mallah gets caught in this conflict and decides to take advantage of the situation by betraying both sides until his conscience finally comes into play.

    There are numerous elements I liked about the movie. First of all, the opening sequence is surprisingly brutal, intense and suspenseful and sets the mood for an epic tale of vengeance. Secondly, the locations look absolutely stunning throughout the entire film. Thirdly, the sound and special effects are decent and not as bad as claimed by numerous reviewers. Fourthly, the story comes around with numerous twists and turns without ever getting too exaggerated. Fifthly, the film finds the right balance between facts and fancy with its historical references and supports values such as independence, liberty and loyalty. Sixthly, the movie takes the time it needs to tell its story of epic proportions instead of rushing it and you truly get value for money if you buy a movie ticket. Seventhly, the diversified characters are particularly intriguing, especially the philosophical former veteran officer and leader of the thugs, the cold-blooded company officer and the expressive criminal. Eighthly, the acting performances are great and especially Aamir Khan is as versatile as it gets and reminds me of Johnny Depp in his best years. Ninethly, the film has several similarities to the Pirates of the Carribean franchise but is not only better than that franchise that overstayed its welcome but also adds its very own twist to it in form of the costumes, dances and locations. Tenthly and finally, I'm usually not a fan of dance and song choreographies in movies but since this element is only present on three occasions in a film with a running time of nearly three hours and gives the film its unique Bollywood identity, I actually appreciated it for once.

    Some people might rate my review down, not because it's badly written or because its content is useless but because they might disagree with my opinion and reasoning which only discredits these critics that already gave this film a bad name it didn't deserve. If you like epic pirate movies, you can't get around watching Thugs of Hindostan which turns out being one of the best films of its kind and one of the most entertaining movies of the year. Grab some popcorn, invite a few friends and enjoy this epic experience to the fullest.

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  • Orion's Reign - Scores of War (2018)

    Orion's Reign is one of the most creative, epic and passionate symphonic power metal bands I have ever come across. Inspired by veterans like Virgin Steele, more recent genre bands like Magic Kingdom and so-called supergroups like Avantasia, Orion's Reign offers eleven diversified, melodic and powerful anthems. The epic ''The Gravewalker'' with its grandiose vocal efforts and the colourful ''An Adventure Song'' with its balanced mixture of medieval folk and symphonic elements are highlights on an overall very strong release.

    The record features some interesting guest appearances by Mark Boals, Tim Owens and Marit Minniva Børresen who fully convince in their respective songs. However, regular vocalist Daniel Vasconcelos is at least as good as the guest singers and finds the right mixture between technical skills and overwhelming emotions. The keyboards are the most important instrument since they provide the cinematic symphonic soundscapes that give this band its unique identity. The guitar play convinces most in the mid-paced to fast melodic solos while the riffs could at times be more gripping. Bass guitar and drums form the solid backbone of the vivid tracks without truly standing out.

    If you like symphonic power metal, Orion's Reign offers some of the very best material in recent memory and might as well qualify for best power metal record of the year. If you like the power metal genre, you have to explore this wonderful band. Epic orchestral parts with cinematic vibes meet tracks inspired by medieval folk passages in eleven creative, energetic and entertaining melodic power metal songs.

    Final rating: 93%

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  • The Foreshadowing - Paranoid Boyd (2018)

    Italy's stunning doom metal quintet The Foreshadowing is back with an unusual digital single in support of the horror comic book series Paranoid Boyd.

    The song starts with a collage of ambient sounds and dialogues before heavy breathing leads to the actual start of the song. Melancholic guitar melodies, droning rhythm section and bittersweet vocals immediately evoke a strong atmosphere. The song continues to elaborate upon the smooth start and becomes slowly more intense thanks to overlapping vocal tracks and cleverly employed bell sound. The track ends on a haunting finale that leaves the listener wanting more.

    This creative gothic doom metal track represents everything The Foreshadowing stands for and if you like either genre, you are certainly going to enjoy this surprise release. In addition, the music suits the topic of the comic book series quite well and might make you want to check out the books as well. The atmospheric, colourful and mysterious cover artwork blends in perfectly and deserves more recognition than just being used for a digital single. This brilliant release sets the bar high for The Foreshadowing's future endeavours.

    Final rating: 90%

    Paranoid Boyd

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