Multi-player Madness?

Money spent on Xbox Live membership by Fluffrick in 2013? Zero pounds!

Microsoft have recently been keen to remind gamers that Xbox Live has been around for a decade – hence e-mails like the one above, which I received this morning.

I might rather have received one of these, but as I live in Europe (and we don’t matter to Microsoft), I’ll just be happy that they deigned to send me an e-mail which has reminded me of something crucial – my Xbox Live Gold membership is the nerd equivalent of the gym membership that I don’t use.

My taste in games has always skewed towards the solitary and offline – a good percentage of the Role Playing games that I spend my time with don’t really bother with online modes and competitive functionality – and so it really doesn’t make that much sense for me to spend the price of a new game on a service which I don’t actually use.  Sure, Mass Effect 3 has a suite of multiplayer options but it’s not really the kind of thing which appeals to me – plugging wave after wave of NPC’s in the company of some random dude who doesn’t speak/plays music down his headset or regale you with his unsolicited neo-Nazi views is not my idea of happy-happy fun times, truth be told.

I’ve tried “Gears of War” multi and “Call of Duty” online (see my previous neo-Nazi comment) and found the experience profoundly wanting – and it’s not just a problem with the 360 audience, as Uncharted 2 on the PS3 had more than a few highly vocal 12-year-old nitwits ready, willing and eager to demonstrate their bigotry and stupidity to all and sundry in matches and lobbies.  I find myself actively wanting to disassociate myself from many of the people who play online on consoles, as this gaming generation has exposed me to people so acutely unpleasant and unrepentantly objectionable that their stupidity can surely only be explained away by being a stunt or deliberate tactic of some kind – gamesmanship employed by people for whom winning is the only goal.

Testify, Wonka – testify!

Yes, we can mute and report people to the enforcement teams on the respective platforms but the point to me is that by the time that you’ve done that, the very last thing that you want to do is venture back online and play against people – I’m fairly soured on the whole notion of competitive play against people who I don’t know.

When my Gold membership expires in a month or two I am pretty certain that I won’t be renewing it. And, you know what?  I’m totally okay with that.

 

Come Cover Me

Nightwish/symphonic metal nerds? This one is for us.

Image via Tumblr

We’ve been wondering a lot about Floor Jansen becoming Nightwish’s permanent singer – she’s boldly stepped into the breach to do replace Anette Olzon after her departure from the Finnish symphonic metal titans and done a brilliant job of it.  Fans seem to appreciate her and Floor’s vocal range is more than up to the task.  Conversely, she has her own band, ReVamp – which has just rescheduled their second album to Autumn 2013 – and might not want to join such a high-profile band on a permanent basis.

Seems that any decision on Floor becoming the Flying Finns front woman is a little premature – keyboardist/band leader/batty visionary Tuomas Holopainen is keen to just take things steady and leave any major decisions on the vacant singer’s position until 2014 at the earliest.

Now that, fellow nerds, is a poster…

Still, whilst we’re waiting for some news – there’s always the movie to look forward to.

Sabaton/Eluveitie/Wisdom, Corporation, Sheffield, 11/11/2012 live review…

Corp! Not pictured, my freezing extremities, suffering whilst waiting outside last night.

I must apologise to Hungarian Power Metal chaps Wisdom, whose show I didn’t really get to see on Sunday night in Sheffield – due to pressing telecommunications issues which would not be denied, I was late to the gig and heard a slab of their set from outside the venue.  The Maiden cover, “Wasted Years” sounded chunky and faithful through the walls and the eponymous “Wisdom” and “Judas” seemed riffy and well-played slices of chugging traditional metal – the already decently sized crowd seemed to be enjoying what they saw.

Some brief set dismantling and roadie magic later, the Swiss Folk Metal onslaught of Eluveitie was amongst us and the band turned limited space to their advantage – Corporation’s stage isn’t massive at the best of times, and with eight band members on stage that bijou performance area was stretched to its limits.

The perfect soundtrack to your next medieval battle – Eluveitie

The band had never played in my city before, as singer/whistle/bandola/bagpipe  player Chrigel Glanzmann informed us, and I suspect walked away with more than a few new fans as they were pretty phenomenal live – the traditional metal attack which you might expect married seamlessly to folk instrumentation and impassioned vocals of the harsh and clean persuasions from Chrigel and Anna Murphy respectively.

I’m most familiar with their recent “Helvetios” album, so I got to hear a smattering of songs from that record to appreciate as well as material from their back catalogue – the gig was very much a case of being interested in the band before going to see them live and being wholly won over by their performance thereafter.  Am I a new fan of this band?  Very much so.  Just a cursory hearing of their glorious, Celtic-inspired, stirring sound is sufficient to inspire thoughts of painting your face with woad, donning furs and a kilt and setting about tyrannical land owners with a sturdy club.

Ahem.

Not that Sabaton don’t inspire similar feelings – the Swedish band have recently undergone a fairly major line-up change around the release of their recent “Carolus Rex” set but haven’t let this shift in personnel unduly affect their splendidly self-aware live show.  New members were integrated well into the gig, with lead guitarist Tobbe Englund’s accidental discovery of a kitschy knick-knack secreted above the Corporation main stage providing an accidental comic highlight in the show – it’s the humour of this band and singer Joachim Broden’s chipper, off-the-cuff stage banter which mark them apart from their other contemporaries in the upbeat, fast-paced Power Metal sub-genre.

It’s important to state that the Corporation crowd LOVED this band.  From the moment that the lights went down and Sabaton’s intro tape – fellow Swedish rock titans Europe’s classic “The Final Countdown” played in full (!) – erupted through the PA, the audience was here to see one band and shortly thereafter the roars of “SABATON! SABATON! SABATON!” filled the room and didn’t stop for the rest of the night.  If there was a moment of silence between songs, that chant seemingly started up again and Joachim’s face was plastered with a massive, cheesy grin.

Sabaton – for the glory of Sweden!

South Yorkshire loves a bit of proper, fist-pumping, 100 miles-an-hour, head-banging metal mania and as Sabaton’s catalogue is mostly composed of peerless examples of same, they were bound to go over like ice cream on a blazingly hot day.  If the band had a more vocal crowd on their UK tour than this one, I’d be surprised.

What’s as remarkable as the overwhelmingly powerful reaction to the band is the fact that Sabaton’s overriding lyrical theme is war, battles, soldiers and conflict – real ‘Boy’s Own’ glory, honour and valour stuff – and yet the material never gets distasteful, jingoistic, objectionable or reactionary, which for a gig which occurred on Remembrance Sunday felt quite important.

Any gig where you learn about the secret Swedish plan for global domination (Those IKEA warehouses? Pro-Tip? Lovely homes for battalions of tanks), get to hum along to a few bars of “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme” by Abba and bellow out the chorus of the band’s anthemic “Primo Victoria” on a chilly Sunday evening is my definition of a fun time.

To paraphrase a certain Matthew Broderick/John Hughes classic of the 1980’s, if you get the opportunity to purchase Sabaton tickets, I highly recommend picking them up.

 

Sabaton? Eluveitie? Wisdom? Oh My…

Yes, I’m off to see a gig – entry-level image manipulation courtesy of Paint.Net

Hark at me with my beginner’s level image manipulation skills!  I’m off to see Sweden’s finest lovable Power Metal loons Sabaton at Sheffield’s Corporation tonight – I’ll probably be the guy in the Delain shirt.  Be sure and say “Hi!” – and their ready, willing and able tour mates Swiss Pagan Metal folks Eluveitie and Polish Trad Metal dudes Wisdom.

Expect a noisy time to be had by all and ear-plugs to be firmly stuffed in-ear by anybody over the age of 35 once things get going.  A report will be with soon, I imagine.

Two gigs in a week- surely some mistake?

 

 

Nightwish, Manchester 05/11/2012 gig review

Nightwish pictured recently or a roguish band of Steampunk bandidos?  Who can say?

I went to see Nightwish last night in Manchester – they were sublime, needless to say.

This is the first time that UK fans have had a chance to see the band since they parted ways with previous singer Anette Olzon, with former After Forever and ReVamp singer Floor Jansen stepping into the proverbial breach and helping the band finish the rest of the dates on their “Imaginaerum” world jaunt.  Some early reports on the US leg of the tour were mixed, but I strongly suspect we can put them down to allowing a new singer to learn a lot of material in a short time period, under pressure, in front of fans with very distinct ideas about how the songs should sound.

The show which Mrs Rolling Eyeballs and I saw last night was fantastic and confirms that we should be very happy if Floor decides to stay with Nightwish for a while – she can certainly handle the more operatic, multi-octave material with original Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen was synonymous with and the more recent albums which Anette sang on hold no problems for Jansen either – she’s neither copying the vocal style of her predecessors or trying too hard to stamp her own identity onto the songs – she’s just singing them quite brilliantly.

Swedish purveyors of industrial/metal/sleaze tunes, Pain, were the opening band and they were…fine, I guess?  The crowd got into them a lot more than I did, and certainly seemed to know more of the songs – I’ve heard their “Shut Your Mouth” on Spotify and it’s a decent tune, but much of their set last night blended into one unholy mush, thanks to one of the more unsympathetic sound mixes that I’ve encountered at a gig.  Singer Peter Tägtgren was, by his own admission, having an off-night too and admitted that he had lost his voice somewhere between Stockholm and Manchester.  A bad day at the office, as they say.

Nightwish, to be fair, didn’t get on any better with the Apollo’s mercurial sound system – a lot of the subtleties and musical texture of their songs were well and truly gobbled up somewhere ‘twixt stage and the circle seating where I was safely ensconced for the evening.  Audio woes didn’t spoil the gig, though, and I was able to enjoy the band in what amounts to an intimate and up-close gig for them (in mainland Europe, Nightwish tend to play festivals, arenas and that size of venue).

My personal highlight was the section with the multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley“I Want My Tears Back”/”The Islander“/“Nemo”/”Last of the Wilds” – which took the volume down a bit and amounted to an acoustic interlude and amply demonstrated just how versatile this band is and how diverse their sound can be.  They’re nominally a metal band which has a vein of orchestral/soundtrack/score composition underpinning and complementing the massive riffs which are their stock in trade – this is almost certainly why I like them as you never know quite where the next song on an album will go.

Although, “Everything AND the kitchen sink” is a pretty good rule of thumb.

I enjoyed everything about the band’s performance – bassist Marco Hietala‘s gurning faces and eccentric on-stage banter, guitarist Emppu Vuorinen‘s apparent inability to stay still for more than a second, drummer Jukka Nevalainen‘s curious habit of hovering low over his drum skins (almost as though he’s talking to them) before starting a song, band leader Tuomas Holopainen‘s ‘lost in music’ reveries and sneaky quaffing from a bottle of vino between tunes – there’s a lot to love about Nightwish and going to see this film only made me love them more.

They play London tonight (5/11/2012), Birmingham on Tuesday and Glasgow on Wednesday this week.  If you’re near any of those venues in the UK, I highly recommend a night out with Finland’s finest musical export.

 

And justice for…some?

Yep, that dude looks like a challenge to morality and national values…

I’m a big fan of freedom of speech – and that includes unpopular speech.  I think it’s important for bigots to be given a public forum to amply demonstrate their stupidity and the worst excesses of their viewpoints so that there can be no doubt how dangerous they are.  Hatred and intolerance often manages to wear an acceptable face and it’s important for us to be able to decode the unpleasant subtexts and core meanings which extremist groups try to disguise in order to achieve a greater public profile.

Hence the picture of Adam Darski, erstwhile frontman of Polish Black Metal band Behemoth – Nergal to friends and fans.  He this week found out that the Polish supreme court had ruled that a 2007 performance where he criticised the Catholic church and tore up a bible constituted a criminal offence and that he could be tried for offending religious sensibilities and the more nebulous offence of blasphemy.

It’s good to know that rational debate is still alive, well and thriving in Poland, eh?

Indeed, it’s almost as if nobody in government in Poland has ever seen old-hat, slightly camp, playing to the converted rock theatrics beforehand – the reaction that many Poles have had to this presumed attack on their religious faith is exactly the kind of response that Nergal would have predicted (and perhaps wanted) – an over-the-top, sub-dark ages, hysterical over-reaction which serves only to make them look like enemies of rationalism and absurdly subject to religious dogma.

If you have religious convictions, that’s fine – my problem with the devout, as stated before in posts on this blog, is when your individual faith begins to cloud your judgement and you try to preach and impose your religion onto those who neither sought out nor will benefit from the pursuit of your personal delusions.

To the Polish supreme court, I would say this – produce your God to explain how Nergal’s actions have offended him/her/it and then you can put somebody in prison for two years?  What’s that you say?  God hasn’t shown up in person for the court date?  How very curious.

First Pussy Riot’s absurd imprisonment in Russia, now this potential debacle – it’s getting dangerous for artists to express any kind of opinion, lest the pious scream and rage until they get their hooks into you, demanding their pound of free-thinking flesh from politicians too cowardly and vote-grabbing to stand up for rationalism and a world free of modern day zealotry.