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Review: “Trinity I” by Pneuma Hagion

Posted in Reviews with tags , , on April 20, 2015 by masterinferno

Pneuma Hagion logo

Pneuma Hagion, from San Antonio, Texas, is yet another musical project of Ryan from Intestinal Disgorge (yes, he has about 20 billion different bands; and yes, I’m an unapologetic fanboy), formed in early 2015. Trinity I, released in late January of this year, is the band’s (well, solo project’s) first demo, and what a demo it is! The band plays a form of relentless, lo-fi, blackened death metal sometimes called “war metal” which has gained a fair amount of attention in the extreme metal underground in recent years. The demo’s three songs add up to just under seven and a half minutes of music, with no one track longer than three minutes – and the shortest, “Nous”, is less than two. The production is quite murky, but not brickwalled to hell and back like many modern death metal releases – every instrument can still be heard without too much trouble. The mostly mid-paced guitar riffs seem fairly primitive at first glance, but there is actually a good deal of detail and nuance which may not become apparent until after several listens. As far as I can tell, the bass mainly follows along with the guitars, not really getting too adventurous but rather adding some extra low end to the already crushingly heavy riffs. The drums follow fairly simplistic blast beat and double bass patterns for the most part, without getting boring or repetitive – with the songs being so short, nothing on this demo really overstays its welcome. Additionally, a few parts of the demo are accented by keyboards, though these just provide a few notes or chords to support the riffs, without ever really taking the lead. The vocals are extremely guttural, distant-sounding growls, occasionally veering into harsh whispers; and, par for the course, what Ryan is actually saying is completely indecipherable, especially since the lyrics remain unpublished. However, Ryan has expanded on the band’s concept a bit – and between the song titles and the band’s name (which is Greek for “Holy Spirit”), one may be able to figure out the generally Gnostic/Neoplatonic inspiration behind this project (more on that can be found in this interview). Overall, I definitely recommend this demo for fans of both war metal specifically, and underground black/death metal in general. Stream it for free, or download it for just a dollar, at Pneuma Hagion’s Bandcamp page. In addition, for the physical media fiends, war metal label Nuclear War Now! Productions will be releasing a cassette version sometime this year.

Review: “The Shadows That Stride from World to World” by Intestinal Disgorge

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on April 6, 2013 by masterinferno

San Antonio-based goregrind  band Intestinal Disgorge have been flying under the extreme music scene’s radar since the mid-90s, putting out numerous albums, demos, splits, and EPs on various small labels to hardly any attention, much less praise. When I first heard of the group (currently a duo with instrumentalist/vocalist Ryan and second vocalist Jacob), I was actually more interested in Ryan’s other projects such as the funeral doom band The Howling Void. However, in the last year or so I started to develop a greater interest in IxDx, and with the recent (at time of writing, less than 18 hours ago) release of their newest album, The Shadows That Stride from World to World, I thought I’d offer my own opinions on it and maybe convince you kids to throw some of your welfare hard-earned money their way. Right off the bat, the album and song titles are an indication that something is different about this IxDx release. Gone are the references to gore, scat, and misogyny which have been the group’s bread and butter since its inception, replaced with names pertaining to Lovecraft’s style of cosmic horror (though the opening track “Consensus Reality Steps on a Thumbtack” shows that there’s at least some tongue left in the band’s collective cheek) When I first streamed it on the group’s Bandcamp page this morning, I described it to Ryan as feeling like my mind was “raped by gibbering horrors from dead dreams” (he insisted I put that phrase in this review, so there ya go, dude). The album’s programmed drums reach insane speeds of thousands of BPM, often drowning out the guitars almost entirely. Conventional riffs – at least catchy ones – are few and far between; the guitar tracks seem to have been cut up during production and reassembled into shapes evocative of tentacled horrors from beyond. A few tracks, such as “From Distant Gulfs Beyond Time and Space”, are straightforward noise, with guitars so distorted they sound more like machinery than musical instruments, and no discernable beat or rhythm at all. Vocals vary between high-pitched screams and extremely low pitch-shifted gurgles; in both cases, the lyrics, assuming there are any, are completely incomprehensible – but the vocals still capture the feeling of sanity-breaking Lovecraftian horror, as if Ryan and Jacob were actually being driven to mad glossolalia by Great Cthulhu while recording them. And, of course, one can’t write about Intestinal Disgorge without referencing the songs’ brevity. Eight of the album’s seventeen songs are under a minute long, and only four are above the two minute mark, though closer “From Beyond” clocks in at nine minutes – nearly a third of the album’s playing time. The band describes this release as “Lovecraftian Glitch Gore”, and I can’t think of a better appellation for it. If you’re into extreme music, or at least somewhat open-minded (or just get a perverse kick out of listening to this sort of thing), I suggest you give this album a try. It’s available on their Bandcamp page for $3, or more if you’re feeling generous – and you don’t want Nyarlathotep to come eat your soul for being cheap, do you?

My huge cake, never got a slice: Being a review of Super Mario Galaxy 2, wherein the good and bad points thereof are discussed (but not in that order)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on June 1, 2010 by masterinferno

Having gotten, at time of writing, about 99.99% completion on Super Mario Galaxy 2, I feel overly qualified to pass judgement on it.

First (but also least importantly in the long run), the bad. I’m sure that there are a bunch of butthurt Nintendo fanboys who would gang up and murder me if they read the following criticisms of Mario’s newest outing, so I’m going to say in advance that I’m sorry. I’m sorry, that is, that you’re a bunch of butthurt Nintendo fanboys who gang up and murder people for criticizing, to any degree, anything Nintendo publishes. Go play on train tracks.

Anyway.

Bad the first: Extra lives and the handling thereof. I mentioned in passing on Facebook many months ago that I believe (or, more correctly, know, because this isn’t an opinion) that extra lives in video games are an outdated holdover from the days of arcade gaming (and very early console gaming before there were saved games). In a nutshell, if a game allows you to, in some capacity, pick up from where you left off earlier, you don’t need extra lives. They make gameplay unnecessarily tedious when you run out and then have to start the level all over instead of from the last checkpoint you hit just because you died (on what may be a very difficult level no less) an arbitrary number of times.  We have progressed beyond the need for extra lives. They are a relic of the old days, good for a museum and nowhere else. The Hebrews wandered in the desert for 40 years because they kept running out of lives and having to start the level over. You can look that up in the Bible, I know it’s in there somewhere. That said, I know that the 1-up mushroom is an iconic element of the Mario series and is probably going to be in Mario games long after we’re all dead and this review has been forgotten about by the internet as a whole.  So we’ll accept that a Mario game is going to have extra lives in it. Now, I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph “the handling thereof”, which I will get to now. If you quit and restart the game, even if you just go to the title screen and load your saved game without turning the system off, you have four lives (five if you count zero as a life). That’s it. You could have had fifty not thirty seconds ago when you saved your game, and now they’re all gone. This has been a problem with the Mario series since it first got a save feature way back in Super Mario World. Nintendo for some reason has decided that you’re not entitled to keep all those hard-earned lives just because you quit the game. If I was giving this game a numerical score out of 100 (which I won’t, because I hate giving stuff I review numerical scores) I’d take off at least five points just for that.

Bad the second: Camera screwery. The camera is the greatest foe you will ever face in a 3D platform game (and often in other genres as well), unless it’s done Just Right. The way to do it Just Right is as follows: The camera should be stationed a moderate distance behind the player character, with the ability to rotate it a full 360 degrees at all times, except where these things are detrimental to the gameplay (as they would be in this game’s side-scrolling segments, of which there are quite a few). I should not have to miss repeatedly a long-distance jump to a star because I can’t get the camera lined up to where I Can See What’s Going On. This issue is not so prevalent in the game that it dominates the experience, but it’s common enough to be an annoyance. This is not a horror game or adventure game. It does not require limited camera movement to enhance the “atmosphere”.

Bad the third: The mini-games. That annoying “rolling ball” mini-game from Mario Galaxy 1 is back, and the controls for it are as imprecise as ever, though fortunately it only appears in two galaxies (though that means you’ll have to play it a minimum of eight times to get all the stars from it). Mario Galaxy 1’s least annoying mini-game, the “bubble blow” one, is gone, and ray surfing is gone, but now we get New Ones that are still annoying. First up is riding Fluzzard, a bird-thing that doesn’t so much fly as glide, and you tilt the Wii Remote to make him move in the direction you want him to go, and hopefully he goes that way. Unfortunately the guys at Nintendo forgot that gameplay is more important than realism when it comes to flying in a cartoony 3D platform game. That’s the best I can figure out to word it, so moving on. Next you have “Chimp’s Challenges”, a group of  (usually timed) games where you try to beat the Chimp’s score. This generally involves stuff like ice-skating into targets or jumping on lots of enemies in a row (and not the nice little Goombas either, the spawn-of-Satan rock-spitting octopus things). And there’s five or six of them total. Bleh.

Now I’m going to tell you why you should buy the game anyway.

Good the first: It’s basically more of the same. Did you enjoy Mario Galaxy 1? Me too. Mario Galaxy 2 plays pretty much exactly the same. Mario and Luigi control the same as they did in 1. You can still collect and shoot Star Bits with the Wii Remote. Most of Mario Galaxy 1’s power-ups are back (although the Boo Mushroom and Spring Mushroom get very limited use – not that this is a bad thing). You’ll have no problem jumping right in if you played the first game.

Good the second: The new stuff.  The most prominent addition is, of course, Mario’s dinosaur buddy Yoshi, who can be found on several levels. Yoshi is easy to control (just point the remote at an enemy and press B to eat them!) and has some fun segments with his own power-ups, which let him run really fast up walls/across water, float upwards, and illuminate hidden platforms. Mario’s own new power-ups are well-done as well. The Prankster Comet challenges are now unlocked by collecting the Comet Medal in each galaxy. The “Cosmic Mario” challenges from SMG1, where you race a clone of yourself to the star, are gone, having been replaced with “Shadow Mario”, where a series of clones follows your moves exactly and damage you if you touch them. This can be maddeningly difficult at times, but is still perfectly doable.

Good the third: Everything else. The challenges are often sadistically difficult but still mostly fair, except when they involve Camera Screw or Annoying Mini-Games. Luigi, who was playable in SMG1 when you got all 120 stars as Mario, is back, and this time you can play as him right from the start on some levels, and then on any level after you beat the game. The game’s second set of 120 stars, instead of being Luigi-specific as in SMG1, is in the form of “Green Stars” that appear in every level after you get the first 120 stars and beat the game again, doubling the number of stars in each galaxy. The Green Stars are generally much easier to get as they’re just lying around hidden in the levels (I got 90 of them in one afternoon), but by the time you unlock them you probably won’t want to do even more ultra-difficult challenges for them. Getting all of the Green Stars unlocks the Grandmaster Galaxy, in which I am currently doing the Prankster Comet challenge (and dying repeatedly thanks to the outdated extra lives system and lack of checkpoints). But that’s cool, because I know it can be done. As I said earlier, the game is hard, but still mostly fair.

I feel like I’m supposed to have some kind of closing paragraph here, but I always thought that they were kind of pointless – after all, what’s the point of summing up everything again if the person just read the long version? So I’ll just leave you with: If you have a Wii, you need this game. If you have a Wii and you do not have this game, you are wrong.