Blogcritics » Marty Dodge The critical lens on today's culture & entertainment Sat, 20 Dec 2014 21:57:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Music Reviews: Tesla, Brother Firetribe, Mother Road, and Niva Mon, 14 Jul 2014 21:37:53 +0000 Here’s some more classic hard rock for your ears this week.

Tesla - SimplicityTesla are back with Simplicity, their newest album in quite a while – 14 songs of consistent hard rock for your listening pleasure. Tesla are nothing but consistent and deliver what their fans want. While this album is not innovative in any way, it is reassuring and will not disappoint. Well done Jeff Keith and company.

Brother Firetribe have released Diamond in the Firepit. This is a strong hard rock release, one that is very European-flavored. It is guaranteed that you will dig these tracks, even if most of the songs aren’t long in length. This is a perfect soundtrack for the summer.

Mother Road have unleashed Drive. This is hard-edged rock that is much closer to its blues roots than some you might hear these days. Fans of bands like Thunder will find instant kinship with this band. From the opening track “The Sun Will Shine Again” to the final track “On My Way”, it’s hard not to enjoy this album. It is highly recommended for you blues rock fans out there.

Niva are set to release an album on 29 August called Incremental IV. This is a short, but sweet collection of Euro-style hard rockers. At 11 songs and 39 minutes, it doesn’t hang around too long and thus, never gets boring. It is the perfect respite when you need a musical break. Solid songwriting and catchy choruses make for an entertaining release.

I am sure you will find something to your liking above. As always, stay safe and rocking out there.

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Music Reviews: Outloud, Sunstrike, Tarja, and Timo Tolkki’s Avalon Sat, 28 Jun 2014 16:27:05 +0000 A varied lot is for you this week, but all good just the same.

Outloud have released a statement in the form of Let’s Get Serious. And what a great hard rocking statement is in the end. From the opening track “Death Rock” which has nothing to do with death metal, to “Like a Dream”. While not essential by any means, you could do far worse than to check this lot out to fill your hard rock quota.

Sunstrike have a great album out in the form of Rock Your World. This is upbeat, fun hard rock that used to fill out car stereos in the summer. The title track and “Roll the Dice” are just about perfect for the mood. While this bunch won’t exactly crash any genres, they do what they do so well – something that is just all you need.

Beautyandthebeat.TarjaMikeTarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish) is back with yet another symphonic collection of tracks called Beauty and the Beat, this time with drummer Mike Terrana as the main collaborator, and it comes with all the bells and whistles. This is a live affair and is quite the treat for fans of her voice. It is cover-heavy but nonetheless quite the listen. Her Zep cover and her take on “I Walk Alone” are worth the price of entry alone. This is a two-CD set and well worth the money. While not the most accessible release you could argue, it does hit the right spot if you are so inclined.

Timo Tolkki’s Avalon have unleashed Angels of the Apocalypse on the world and it is what one would expect from Timo (formerly of Stratovarius) and company. This is a note-perfect collection of power metal. As with all such releases, the only counter is that it is too clinical and too perfect, thus lacking in warmth. That being said, it is very hard to ignore talent and quality of music on show here.

Enjoy the music and stay safe out there.

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Music Reviews: 21 Octayne, Elvenking, Riotgod, and Michael Sweet Sat, 07 Jun 2014 19:41:05 +0000 After a health-enforced hiatus I am glad to be back writing reviews. Then again, it has given me lots of time to listen to some cracking music.

21 Octayne have released Into the Open. Quite the hard rock album it is in the end. It has enough substance to keep you interested while still retaining that sense of fun we all crave from this sort of music. It reminds me a bit of Buckcherry at their best. No fluff, but a fair amount of variety in the tracks. The first track, “She’s Killing Me,” is quite the kicker of an opening statement. No one should be surprised though as the band have quite the pedigree of experience.

ElvenkingElvenking have released The Pagan Manifesto in all its glory. This, as you might imagine, does what it says on the cover. Gloriously over the top, power metal, prog fantasy metal in all its outrageous fun. I love every minute of this 12-track affair. Unlike many such albums it is neither too long nor simply too over the top. They have achieved the right balance for this sort of album. If you are in the right mood it is as satisfying as any fantasy epic movie. This is serious headphones and a glass of wine fodder.


Riotgod have released Driven Rise and what a quirky album it is. This is mostly based on the unusual vocal stylings of the lead singer. The nutty lyrics help a bit, as does the neo-prog mixed in with the hard rock at its core. There is a psychedelic hint to all the tracks. “They Don’t Know” is just the sort of nuttiness that makes this release so interesting. Not too quirky as to require the right mood to get into, but just enough to raise it above the norm.

Michael Sweet has just released an album entitled I’m Not Your Suicide. The Stryper frontman obviously has a lot more to say and this is quite the collection of heavy rock. There is something subtly different about the tracks on here as they seem much more personal. Tracks like the title tune are quite the statement and show an interesting side to the vocalist. That said it does not stray too far away from his main band’s sound, so it shouldn’t alienate any fans. An enjoyable collection of tracks for sure.

Well that is your lot for this week, enjoy these releases.

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Music Reviews: Toto, U.D.O., Uriah Heep, and Xandria Thu, 15 May 2014 16:57:20 +0000 Toto is about to unleash a new live album on us all called 35th Anniversary Tour – Live in Poland. It was recorded before an adoring crowd of fans and covers their entire career. They have most of the crew for the ride, so you get to hear songs sung by those who originally recorded them (Toto has had quite a few lead singers) and Steve Luckather is in fine form. Both his vocals and guitar playing are as fantastic as ever. And for the most part, they keep the musical fapping to a minimum. This is quite a good live album and certainly one very valuable for your money.

U.D.O. has Steelhammer: Live in Moscow on offer in early June to the band’s myriad of fans. This 21-track live release runs the gamut of what makes Udo Dirkschneider. Gravel-voiced as always and firing all cylinders, the audience can’t get enough. As you can tell from the title, this was recorded on the band’s recent tour in support of Steelhammer. Sadly no “Balls to the Wall” from Udo’s Accept career. It was the first time the band played in Russia so the fans are especially appreciative.

Uriah Heep are back with the album Outsider, set to be released in early June. Thankfully the band are in bloody good form. There are some great tunes on here that will remind you why the band were/are so beloved by their many fans. Xandria - Sacrificium“Can’t Take That Away” is a great song that really shows off this band’s talent and reminds us of their vintage tracks like “Easy Livin’. The fact they have been around so long and yet are able to produce such a solid release is a testament to the talents of the people involved. This is the type of release that will please those already into the band and may in fact attract more to their cause.

Xandria are back with their slick brand of symphonic metal on Sacrificium. It is what you expect from this lot and puts a bloody great smile on my face. In the light of lackluster output from their fellows in the genre, it is good to see Xandria able to pull off a solid release. Not a stinker track to be had anywhere. Tracks like “Stardust” are a good reminder of why we like bands like this in the first place.

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Music Reviews: Alien, Romantic Rebel, Three Lions, and Voodoo Six Tue, 29 Apr 2014 07:21:14 +0000 Straight-up hard rock is up for review this week.

Alien will release Eternity on April 28. This an ’80s band who have had a resurgence thanks to festival appearances like Firefest. They got back together 2010, after a few abortive attempts at a comeback, with the original line-up no less. The music is very ’80s Scandinavian AOR and that is not such a bad thing at all. Oodles of catchy choruses and slick production make for quite the pleasant experience. How can you resist tracks like “Unbroken”? We can even forgive them for being on The Blob remake soundtrack.

Romantic RebelRomantic Rebel are set to release Romantic Rebel next week, April 29. It is their debut album. They actually have come up with some quite unique and rather catchy songs. Think Van Halen-esque ’80s hard rock fronted by a woman with a slight modern mainstream rock vibe. KT Paige, lead singer, occasionally sounds a lot like Sebastian Bach of Skid Row fame, circa Slave to the Grind. Not that any of this matters much when it is this good. “Bad for Me” is the type of track that should set this bunch on the path to stardom.

Three Lions just released Three Lions on April 22. If you are looking for some slick AOR rock, produced by a couple of veterans and a newbie, then this is it. This is anything but a power trio, but they still produce some cracking AOR. This has very much a Dare/Ten vibe, which is not surprising considering Vinny Burns and Greg Morgan are on hand. “Trouble in a Red Dress” really sums up this band and is quite the track. How about a Winery Dogs/Three Lions tour? What a cracking gig that would be for all of us.

Voodoo Six have released an EP called Lead Me On to get people riled up for their upcoming Sonisphere appearance this summer. As with most EPs, Lead Me On is a mixed bag made up of a new version of a track, a live one, an acoustic one, and unnecessary cover. The title track is quite the corker and shows that the band are moving from strength to strength. It is an edit of a track that originally appeared on their last studio album. The acoustic track “Take the Blame” really highlights how good the band are as musicians.

Stay safe and rocking out there everyone.

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Music Reviews: Brainstorm, Gun Barrel, Sinbreed, and Stormwarrior Fri, 18 Apr 2014 23:23:10 +0000 Power metal is the theme of the week and what a nice selection it is for your ears.

61V-tpCeKaL._SL500_AA280_Brainstorm have released Firesoul. This is typically Germanic power metal with its clean vocals and very precise musicianship. There are touches of progressive metal in the mix as well, to break things up from non-stop anthems. Unlike some of these releases, nothing smacks of being by the numbers. Tracks like “…And I Wonder” have all the catchy elements you would expect from this sort of release. Then again it is a Germanic power metal supergroup, so you would expect nothing less.

Gun Barrel have released Damage Dancer for all to hear. This lot sort of meander between power metal and just plain ole’ hard rock. And despite that they are German, they never sound like Accept, which is nice. The title track is quite a good one here. “Bashing Thru” is a great rocker that should get them going at their next festival performance. Nothing like some cracking hard rock to put a smile on your face.

Sinbreed have released Shadows and it is quite the power metal tour de force. Like the other bands in this column, they are also German but they clearly come from the Accept school of metal. Or rather vocally they are, while the rest of the band play straight-up power metal with no hint of the sophistication of some of the bands of a similar ilk. Not that this is a bad thing, as variety is always a good thing in any genre. What might surprise is that one of the themes of their music is Christianity.

Stormwarrior offer up Thunder and Steele. The music is fortunately more original than the cliche album title. This is pretty straight-ahead power metal. It is catchy and driven music that keeps you along for the ride with each track. Not sure if much of it is that memorable, more in one ear and out the other. The title track is quite good, but some of the rest of it could use a bit of something.

And that is your lot for this week. Stay safe and rocking out there.

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Music Reviews: Anette Olzon, Anubis Gate, L.R.S., and Sevendust Mon, 14 Apr 2014 20:14:25 +0000 Another mixed collection of new music, all worthy of your attention of course.

anette olzonAnette Olzon has released Shine as her solo comeback statement. She left Nightwish a few years ago under quite the cloud on a tour of South America. Many never thought she was the right fit for Nightwish in the first place, not having the operatic style (or range) needed for their music. This album is far more to her liking, with catchy melodies and a pop-tinge to the tracks. There is still a heaviness here, but this is more Within Temptation than Nightwish. The title track sums it all up quite well. It is great to see Olzon in a musical setting more to suited to her voice, like “Falling”.

Anubis Gate just released the mighty fine Horizons. It is progressive metal at its finest and I understand why people have been making such a fuss about it. These guys certainly have their chops down. This Danish bunch walk the tightrope between power and prog metal. They meld the two genres quite well into a good mix of heavy but catchy clever metal. Songs like “Hear My Call” sum up what these guys are all about and make the album worth your time. This is one of those bands that passed me by, but I am very glad to finally become aware of them.

L.R.S. have released an album called Down to the Core. This is some more finely-tuned and produced AOR that, given the right mood, just hits the spot. Clearly this band know how to churn out the catchy pop-tinged AOR like most people breathe. While not for some, there is a certain music fan that loves this stuff, especially when done this well. While tunes like “Waiting for Love” aren’t the most original, no one really cares when they sound this good.

Sevendust are back with Time Travelers & Bonfires, out on U.S. tax day (April 15). It is probably the mellow outing that many people will need after paying their cut to the government. This is quite enjoyable, mellow, rock fare that is catchy and substantive enough not to turn into background noise. They have nailed the “acoustic” album down nicely, which might just attract new fans to the band. And thankfully the lead singer does not whine his way through songs, which so common in this genre. Tracks like “Under it All” were a pleasant surprise to me and I quite enjoyed the entire album.

And that is your lot for the week. Stay safe and rocking out there.

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PC Game Review: ‘Diablo III Reaper of Souls’ DLC Thu, 10 Apr 2014 23:14:32 +0000 81ch1MAaBRL._SL1500_Diablo III: Reaper of Souls DLC is finally out with all its changes, an added act, and a new playable character. So is it worth the wait and have they changed the game for the better? Having playing the demo/beta I confess to never having bothered to buy the whole game until now. Blizzard kindly gave me both the code to whole game and the DLC so I could review it all.

First things first, I rather enjoy the Crusader character and find him to be far more satisfying than the Barbarian of the main game (which I played through the first Act ). He is tank that wades in and lays waste to all without flinching or dropping in health all that much. What is most is amusing is how much I enjoy having the Templar NPC along for the whole game. The Yorkshireman-voiced quips never get old and the exchanges, even in the midst of Hell, could be rather amusing. (Reminded me a bit of the wise cracking ghost in Van Helsing.)

The Act V (Reaper of Souls) storyline is just a tad contrived, but the gameplay is satisfying just the same. The new locales are in keeping with the main game, but new enough to not come across as too samely. However this does bring me to one of my niggles about this game (and DLC). I find myself completely uninterested in ever playing it again, which is odd. Granted there is a lot more competition out there in the ARPG genre, but it just doesn’t move one to play again as did Diablo 2.

I found the always on DRM to be a pain in the arse at first. And to remind me of this, there was nice warning on the launcher letting me know they were having problems. Nothing more annoying than a lag death in a damn solo game. I didn’t notice much of an improvement in the Loot 2 change from Loot 1 either. Loot drops are mostly meh, especially when it comes to weapons, and you can only really expect something decent from boss fights. The crafting system lags so behind your level it is rendered most an amusing aside rather than something useful.

Diablo III looks damn impressive and can be quite immersive. I found myself whiling away hours and seeing the time fly by if i was not careful. As I said as an experience, once, it is quite the game I am just not sure if it retains enough to make you want to go back for more like some of the ARPG’s out there these days. The challenge/Nephalim maps the game produces after finishing it all might keep you amused for a bit, but not sure for how long.

If you got D3 and didn’t hate every minute of it, then this DLC is worth picking up. It is possible that the Crusader is the character you needed to keep you interested for the whole game.

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls  is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore. Violence. This game can also be found on: Mac.




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Music Reviews: Black Label Society, Diabulus in Musica, Pet the Preacher, and Trollfest Tue, 08 Apr 2014 19:54:45 +0000 Here’s this week’s reviews for your listening pleasure.

Black Label Society are back with Catacombs of the Black Vatican, dropping today. Despite the title, Zakk and company have not gone all black metal on us. In fact there is quite the gentle song in the form of “Angel of Mercy,” a ballad no less. Overall this is quite the return to form we expect from BLS and a damn good album with enough variety to please all. Zakk has lost none of his distinctive style of playing or singing, despite being off the bottle. BLS really impress with this release and I am sure fans of the band will eat it up in suitable numbers. It might just attract a few new fans. Then again do we expect anything less?

Diabulus in Musica are set to release Argia this week. This is some fine symphonic metal from Spain. The album contains all the pomp, circumstance and bravado you want from this sort of music. With this release the band are nibbling at the heels of bands like Nightwish and Epica. The dirty vocals on tracks like “From the Embers” might turn a few people off, despite the fact they are used for good effect. Several tracks being in Spanish are a nice touch and add some much needed spice to the album. This band manage to get it right with all the elements coming together in a musical tour de force.

61NqnrpiBKL._SY300_Pet the Preacher are set to release The Cave & the Sunlight in early May. This is Danish stoner metal that almost befits the odd name of the band perfectly. This is their second release. There is a touch of Monster Magnet to this bunch and that is not half a bad thing. Tunes are catchy enough to keep you interested in the organized chaos that is this sort of stoner metal. Ignore that daft name and take a chance on this bunch if you like this rapidly expanding genre.

Trollfest have unleashed Kaptein Kaos on the world and what fun it is for all who care to listen. This is incredibly daft folk metal sung in a mixture of Norwegian and German called Trollspeak. This album is surely designed for listening well into a night of drunken revelry. It is silly and very over-the-top, but incredibly good whether or not you understand what the hell they are on about. The title track is quite good, fun and catchy as you might imagine. If you are itching for songs about drinking and trolls then this might just be the release for you.

Stay safe and rocking out there people.

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PC Game Review: ‘Deus Ex: The Fall’ Sun, 30 Mar 2014 17:43:42 +0000 Deus Ex: The Fall has finally been released on PC. I reviewed the game on iOS and found it to be a clunky mess of a release. Others weren’t so critical and really rated it. Now that it has been released on PC the hue and cry from some purists has been rather ludicrous. It is only $10, and if you can get over a few quirks it is quite good fun.

That said, Ubisoft did themselves no favors with some of the port choices. Choosing to have no re-bindable keys was not exactly clever (however they did make sure lefties were okay by allowing the arrow keys for movement). Instead of having gun dealers placed at strategic locations, players can buy weapons and ammo at any time on the fly. This is not as convenient as it seems because if you are overly keen with your spending, things can become more difficult later in the game. The un-skippable tutorial is a bit tedious and rather unnecessary on the PC it has to be said.deus ex: the fall

Movement, as you might expect, is far less clunky than on iOS. It might not be as snappy as the proper DX, but works well enough.

The game looks decent on the PC and the story-line is in keeping with DX. It is compelling enough to keep you interested and willing to finish the game. Takedowns are just as satisfying, although it seems rather silly that whether you kill your adversaries or just knock them out, the bodies disappear, leaving only their loot. Stealth is satisfying if done properly, thought at times the guards can be rather thick.

I have to admit that I was keen at the end to see where Ubisoft will go next with this game, and I hope that they continue this story arc with a new episode soon. Maybe one native to PC and to the iOS, instead of merely a port?

There have been several updates to fix some of the odd bugs in Deus Ex: The Fall. So, at least, you know Ubisoft hasn’t just chucked it out there with no support.

At the end of the day, what matters is if the game is fun. Ultimately, despite various niggles, this was a satisfying dip back into the the DX universe, and for only $10. If you think it is too steep a price, then wait for the next sale, especially if you never bothered to get the clunky iOS version of this game. And I had more fun playing this than the dire Thief that is for sure.
ESRB: Mature


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