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Thoughts About Metal and Visigoth’s “The Conqueror’s Oath.”

February 9, 2018 Leave a comment

HornsRegular readers of this blog may have picked up that I’m a fan of Heavy Metal music. In fact the older I get the more I love metal and all it’s varied sub genres. Part of the reason I love it is because it’s a way to cope with the sometimes soul crushing mundanity of life. Metal turns things up to 11. It makes dull, routine things epic and operatic feats. So it’s a really fun genre.

It’s also a genre of extreme emotions. The world is a pretty dark place these days, especially here in the suburban badlands of America where I live. Our numbskull in chief and his cronies have created a climate of cruelty, corruption, and outright stupidity. So I’m angry very often. And when I am Metal is there for me. It lets me howl at the awfulness in the world.

Metal can also pick you up and dust you off when existential dread, ennui, and depression knocks you to the floor. Power Metal is especially uplifting genre. If you take it at face value with it’s lyrics about fighting monsters and dragons it’s of course silly. I would argue it’s sublimely ridiculous, but that’s kind of the point. And I refer you back to what I was talking about earlier; how metal makes life more epic. Plus what better way to slay and confront your metaphorical demons and monster than with stirring, epic, ballads about slaying mythic monsters.

If you want a great example of that I would urge you to check out “The Conqueror’s Visigoth-ConquerorsOathOath” by Salt Lake City based power metal band Visigoth. It was released today. I’ve listened to it several times already and it helped turn a grey, bleak, snowy day into one of epic possibilities. It even made me write about music for the first time.

Conqueror’s Oath is eight, epic tracks about facing adversity with steel, courage, and honor. It will get you pumped up to confront difficult tasks, face your fears, and enjoy life. My two favorite tracks are “Hammer Forged” and “Conqueror’s Oath.” Those tracks especially are a soundtrack for going out and being awesome. It’s like a love child of the music of Dio and Henry Rollins. They’re feel good, self help songs for D&D nerds like myself. The whole album is fantastic and a great example of what’s awesome about metal

If you’re curious check out the title track from Conqueror’s Oath here.

And if you’re just curious about Metal and it’s various subgenres check out this helpful video made by the awesome, Whitney Moore

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Categories: Uncategorized

Book Review- “Bonfire” by Krysten Ritter

January 7, 2018 Leave a comment

BonfireKrysten Ritter has been involved with three of my favorite crime shows of all time: “Veronica Mars,” “Breaking Bad,” and Netflix’s adaptation of Marvel Comics “Jessica Jones.” As an actress she was part of the storytelling of those shows. She helped create a character, and she got to witness how the stories on those shows were brought to life. Now I wonder if she was taking notes because I just finished Ritter’s debut novel, “Bonfire,” and it’s a pretty great first crime novel.

In “Bonfire” Ritter takes readers to the fictional town of Barrens, Indiana. It’s a small company town full of unpleasant ghosts and personal demons for her protagonist, an environmental lawyer named Abby Williams. It’s a town Abby escaped from, but the experiences she endured as a teenager at the hands of her family and peers still haunt her. We immediately get the sense of that, but one of Ritter’s strengths as a writer is her ability to convey a sense of place.

She makes Barrens just as horrific for us readers as it is for Abby. She believably brings to life a town swimming in literal and metaphorical sickness. The former is from possible pollution and why Abby has been forced to return home, and the latter comes from the horrific corruption and secrets that took root when Abby was a teenager and have been festering for about a decade.

Abby is a very believable and damaged protagonist. She clearly has PTSD from some of the horrible things she endured as a teenager and often drinks and makesKrysten Ritter bad decisions. You understand why because Ritter allows you to experience Abby’s memories, but memory is fleeting and subjective. Ritter has fun with that as well.

We meet a number of interesting characters as Abby investigates the mysteries in Barrens like the fellow members of her legal team and some of grown up people who tormented her as a teen, but for me the most fascinating character in the book is someone Abby has returned home to find, her childhood friend turned biggest tormenter as a teen, Kaycee Mitchell. Kaycee is a mercurial and vile person, but too Ritter’s credit she’s not a cartoon. You’re given some scenes that give you insight into Kaycee’s action and even allow you to genuinely empathize with her.

Tone is another area Ritter excelled at. Abby’s investigation uncovers some truly sinister secrets about the town and some of it’s residents. So there’s also a very thrilling and palpable sense of paranoia and psychological horror.

 “Bonfire” is a great debut novel about both the damage teenagers can do to each other and the horrific secrets that can hide in small towns. The book is a kickoff to what I hope will be a second successful career for Ritter because I’m eager for both the second season of “Jessica Jones” and to see what she does next as a novelist.

Categories: Book Review

My Top 10 Comics for 2017

January 1, 2018 Leave a comment

I make part of my living writing about comics. So I thought some of my readers might be interested in my list of the 10 best comic series I read in 2017. In this list I tell you where you can start on the series if it sounds like something you’d be interested in, and I try to do justice to each book with a couple of short sentences describing it.

God Country

  1. God Country published by Image Comics. Available in it’s entirety in one collected graphic novel“Reads like American Gods deep in the heart of texas via the wild imagination of Jack Kirby.”

    Hawkeye

  2. Hawkeye published by Marvel Comics. Start with Hawkye: Kate Bishop Volume 1: Anchor Points“Reads like Veronica Mars in the Marvel Universe. Yes. It’s that good.”

    Batman Rebirth

  3. Batman published by DC Comics. Start with Batman Volume 1: I Am Gotham “One of the most fun, heartfelt, and exciting takes on Batman ever.”

     

    Deadly Class

  4. Deadly Class published by Image Comics. Start with Deadly Class: Reagan Youth or the hardcover collection Deadly Class Deluxe Edition: Noise Noise Noise“A powerful, poignant, exciting tale about a high school for teenage assassins in the 1980s. Features my favorite new character: Helmut the East Geman metalhead. Soon to be a Syfy Channel original series.”

 

Mr. Miracle

  1. Mister Miracle published by DC Comics start with issue #1 of the series. No collection as of yet, but issues #1-5 are available via your local comic shop or digitally“One of my favorite creative team in comics takes on one of my favorite Fourthworld character for a story about love and battling inner demons that mixes the wild imagination of Jack Kirby with the surreal nightmares of David Lynch.”

    Defenders

  1. Defenders published by Marvel Comics. Start with Defenders Volume 1: Diamonds Are Forever.“The stars of the titular Netflix show come together in a beautifully drawn and colored series that is an amazing cocktail of street level crime stories and superheroics.”

    Infamous Iron Man

  1. Infamous Iron Man published by Marvel Comics. Start with Infamous Iron Man Volume 1“One of the best written and drawn Doctor Doom stories . . .ever! An incredible tale about walking the rocky and perilous road to redemption.

 

Redneck Image

  1. Redneck published by Image Comics. Start with Redneck Volume 1: Deep in the Heart of Texas.

“A powerful and gripping tale about violence, family, . . . and vampires. And that’s saying something coming from me, because usually I don’t care for stories where vampire are the protagonists. Redneck is amazing though!”

Redlands Image

 

  1. Redlands published by Image Comics. Start with issue #1 of the series. No collection is available right now, but issues #1-5 of the series are available via your local comic shop or digitally.“A haunting and very cool horror series that reads like Charmed by way of the first (the good) season of HBO’s True Detective.

Realm Image

  1. The Realm published by Image Comics. Start with issue #1 of the series. There’s no collection as of yet, but issues #1-4 are available via your local comic shop or digitally.

“What if you took the zombie apocalypse of The Walking Dead and replaced it with the magic and monsters of Dungeons and Dragons? You’d get The Realm; a fun and fascinating series that offers a refreshing take on apocalyptic fiction.”

Book Review- “What Does This Button Do?” By Bruce Dickinson

December 24, 2017 1 comment

What Does This Button Do?Note: I don’t read a whole lot of non-fiction. So I don’t get a lot of chance to review it. In fact this will be my first non-fiction review for this blog. Let’s see what I can do.

The people at Dos Equis got it wrong. The most interesting man in the world was born on August 7th, 1959. His name is Paul Bruce Dickinson. He’s the lead singer of one of the most successful and greatest heavy metal bands of all time, Iron Maiden. He’s also a veteran fencer, an airplane pilot, a small business owner, a screenwriter, a novelist, a documentary film maker, a DJ, a brewer, a cancer survivor, and first hand witness to some major historical events. Being a fan of Iron Maiden since my early adolescent years I thought I knew just how fascinating Bruce was. Then I read his his autobiography, “What Does This Button Do?,” and discovered there’s so much cool and compelling stuff about him that I didn’t know.

In “What Does This Button Do?” Dickinson takes you on a journey through many of his pivotal life events from his early life, to his first bands, and beyond. And he does so with a great and entertaining voice. Iron Maiden fans know that Dickinson has a gift for lyrical storytelling because of the many songs he wrote for the band, but in his autobiography the legendary frontman shows his gifts extend to anecdotal and autobiographical storytelling as well.

The big draw of “What Does this Button Do?” is of course the behind the scenes stories about Iron Maiden’s classic albums and legendary tours. There’s lot of really cool stuff there, but Dickinson’s story isn’t just about that. He gives you a real sense of what it means to be both a singer and a fencer. His love for those pursuits and for flying comes through in the writing and is really infectious. His recounting of his recent battle with cancer is also inspiring and especially moving.

It’s not just personal moments that Dickinson recounts in his book either. As a successful entertainer he was in a position to bear witness to some of history’s harrowing and horrific events. He recounts his time in New York the day 9-11 happened. One of the most powerful and exciting chapters comes though when he takes readers inside a historical event that sadly many people don’t know much about or have forgotten, the Bosnian War of the 90s.

So if you’re a fan of Iron Maiden you absolutely need to read “What Does This Button Do?” But if you’re a fan of great stories and fascinating people you should read it as well. It’s a really fascinating book.

Categories: Book Review

Book Review- “Echoes of the Long War” by David Guymer

November 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Echoes Long War MP3For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of Black Library/Game Workshop’s year long event story from last year, The Beast Arises, is that it’s consistently given me things I’ve never seen or don’t regularly see in Warhmamer 40,000 novels. Those things all feel organic too; so they come off as fun, mindblowing twists. So far, we’ve engaged in political intrigues with the High Lords of Terra, seen Space Marines think and act politically, and have even had Xenos species set foot on Terra . . . twice! And that was just in the first five chapters!

Having now read the sixth installment, David Guymer’s “Echoes of the Long War,” I’m happy to report that the trend of fun, different, and interesting things continues as we reach the halfway point of the series. Plus the book sets the stage for an explosive and exciting second half of the series.

The Beast Arises series is about all the institutions of the Imperium, but so far when it focuses on the Adeptus Astartes the spotlight has firmly been on the Imperial Fists and all their successor chapters. In “Echoes of the Long War” David Guymer takes us on a deep dive inside the culture of the Second Founding Space Marine chapter known as the Fists Exemplar. What’s especially interesting about these guys is they sort of come off as a combination of Rogal Dorn’s Imperial Fists and Roboute Gulliman’s Ultramarines. They have the tenacity and stubbornness of the Fists, but they have the scholarly way of thinking and devotion to code of conduct of the Ultramarines.


Seeing that way of thinking collide with the tsunami of an interstellar invasion of David Guymersuper orks and their attack moons (I will never grow tired of typing that phrase! So fun! So METAL! And so 40K!) Was a lot of fun. And Guymer gives us a great point of view character to follow for most of the action in the form of a by the books Exemplar captain named Zeberyn.

What really makes “Echoes of the Long War” fun though is the characters Zeberyn and the Fists Exemplars run up against in their fight with the orks, the arch enemies of the Imperial Fists, the Traitor Space Marine Legion known as the Iron Warriors. Best of all, it was the Iron Warriors warband that we’ve been following for a few books now, the company lead by Warsmith Kalkator. I’ve grown to like Kalkator over the last few novels in The Beasts Arises, but Guymer made me love him.

That’s because in the book Kalkator and Zeberyn’s forces have a common foe. So the question then becomes can they work together to defeat the orks? I’m not going to comment on that except to say the dialogue and dynamic between Kalkator and the Fists Exemplar is a lot of fun.

The other thing that Guymer does in “Echoes of the Long War” is provide a scenario that turns the Orks into truly frightening foes. For me that’s been sort of the weak link of the series. It’s hard for me to get excited about the Orks as ultimate bad guys because there’s a lot about them that comes off as comical or sort of force of nature like. In this book though there’s an especially savage revelation about the orks that borders on horrific and gives the novel some really great stakes. It also leads to some fantastic action scenes and an incredibly powerful climax that I did not see coming.

On top of that, Guymer also introduces readers to a fascinating group of Tempestus Scions (Think Imperial Guard Spec Ops), while also continuing the stories of the Imperium’s master of assasins Drakan Vangorich, Koorland, the last Imperial Fist, and Magos Biologos Eldon Urquidex. Plus we get a chilling, final scene that digs back into established 40K lore, sets the stage for the back half of The Beast Arises, and makes me eager to read the next book in the series “The Hunt for Vulkan.” So “Echoes of the Long War” was a heck of a lot of fun.

Book Review- “Two Kinds of Truth” by Michael Connelly

November 11, 2017 Leave a comment

Two Kinds of TruthCrime fiction may be full of grand mysteries and head scratching “who done its?”, but it’s just like any other genre in that the strength of its stories depend on the characters embroiled in them. That’s because character is where crime fiction really shines as a genre. You get to see how the best and worst people confront the horrors of modern day society. You get to see them beaten down by depravity and corruption, and you also get to see them rise again and try to make the world a better place.

So crime fiction with great characters is a truly special thing and in his latest novel Two Kinds of Truth veteran crime novelist Michael Connelly demonstrates that. The novel, starring detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch is the latest in a series that stretches back 25 years and is a showcase for why Bosch is one of the greatest police procedural protagonists ever. Best of all though is the fact that Connelly’s second most famous protagonist, Bosch’s half brother, defense attorney Michael “Mickey” Haller AKA the Lincoln Lawyer, is a major part of the supporting cast.

Two Kinds of Truth is a continuation of the new era for Bosch that Connelly kicked off in the last entry in the series, The Wrong Side of Goodbye, where Bosch gets embroiled in two cases. One case stems from his work as a volunteer detective for the small San Fernando Police Force. The other ties back into his long career with the LAPD. Of the two cases the latter appears the most interesting, at least at first.

The former is a murder at a pharmacy, the investigation of which brings Harry face connelly1222to face with a character we haven’t see in the Bosch series in quite some time, and I was genuinely surprised by how much I missed them. From there, the investigation leads Harry into a role I genuinely had never seen him take before, which was fun and fascinating, especially when you consider this is a series that’s been unfolding over the course of 25 years and 20 novels. So that portion of the novel is interesting, but ultimately the best part of that story comes near the end of the book. That’s because the aftermath of the investigation brings out a side of Harry that we don’t often see and it happened organically. It lead to some passages that were powerful, poignant and very timely.

The second case ultimately was more interesting in terms of plot because it involved some fun twists, turns, and revelations. What I loved about those sections of the book though is the role Mickey Haller and his investigator Cisco played in them. Haller truly is a flawed, fascinating, and fun character. So it’s always a delight to watch him work, especially when he has someone on the straight and narrow to play off of like his brother Bosch. I’m not really a fan of legal thrillers, but I have to say I’m a fan of Haller, especially after reading Two Kinds of Truth. He’s that great of a character. I didn’t realize how much I missed him, and I’d love to see Connelly do another novel with him as the protagonist.

It felt like Cisco really got a lot of moments to shine in Two Kinds of Truth as well. It was cool watching the motorcycle club member turned private investigator interact with both his boss and Bosch. He had an interesting rapport with both, and I honestly wouldn’t mind to see him taking a starring turn in a Connelly novel some day either.

So, Two Kinds of Truth is another great demonstration of Connelly’s skill at building and exploring characters. Best of all, it ends with a powerful, poignant, and very interesting climax that made me wonder about and excited for what’s going to happen next in Harry Bosch’s life. After 25 years and 20 novels thats a pretty extraordinary accomplishment.

Book Review- Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier by Mark Frost

November 3, 2017 Leave a comment

Twin-Peaks-The-Final-Dossier-640x500A few months back I had a really great time reading Mark Frost’s novel The Secret History of Twin Peaks. It was a nice blend of real world mysteries and conspiracies with the lore and mythology of the titular TV show. It also really helped refresh my memory and gave me some added context for which to view, interpret, and enjoy Showtime’s Twin Peaks: The Return. So it was a really nice companion piece to the show.

Now about two months after the ending of The Return Frost has released another book, Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier. The ending to Twin Peaks: The Return left me cold at first, but the more I thought about it, and the more I thought about the clues and context of the other episodes I grew to really like it. So I was especially excited to read The Final Dossier since it could be the last world on Twin Peaks for some time, and perhaps for good.

I’m happy to say Frost did not disappoint me with the book. It was like getting oneMark-Frost last thumbs up from Special Agent Dale Cooper. It was a quick and exciting read, especially the last half.

It’s going to be tough to talk about the book without spoiling anything, but let’s see what we can do. Essentially it’s a set of files from the P.OV. of Special Agent Tammy Preston, who’s perspective we got in The Secret History and who was played in The Return by Chrysta Bell. Basically, in the aftermath of The Return Tammy is providing her boss, Gordon Cole, with some detailed reports on the citizens and town of Twin Peaks.

Some of the info is stuff we know from watching The Return and a lot of it fleshes in details that Showtime series overlooked. So it was pretty fascinating and often heartbreaking read because many residents of Twin Peaks endured some pretty tough times in the time period since Gordon Cole last saw them.

There are also some clues about some of the series enduring mysteries and some of the new strange, twists and turns of The Return. If you’re looking for definite answers though you’re out of luck. Because most of the clues about the show’s weird and sinister phenomenon raise new questions about what’s going on. I personally love that, and I think most Twin Peaks fans do too. When Mark Frost, David Lynch and their collaborators showed you something weird or scary it was always mysterious which I think made things more creepy and cool. It’s more frightening if you have ideas what a monster might be then a definite explanation of what it is.

So Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier is a creepy and poignant read, but it’s also a lot of fun. There’s quite a bit of humor in there, and even though there are some dark parts the optimism and wonder of its signature and greatest character, Special Agent Dale Cooper, does shine through in parts too. If you’re a Twin Peaks fan I highly recommend reading this book. It’s a great way to say goodbye (at least for now) to one of television’s most unpredictable and enjoyable shows.

Categories: Book Review, Uncategorized