INTO. THE PIT.

Testament/Metraya

Oxford Art Factory 26/02/14

A small crowd of mostly men outside a venue in Oxford Street isn’t surprising, even more so as it’s coming up to Mardi Gras night. A small crowd of mostly men clad in band t-shirts, with a few fantastic 80’s era denim cut-off jackets covered in patches, that’s different. Well, as far as I know – if anyone wants to prove me wrong, please do so.

The mighty Testament, veterans of the Bay Area thrash scene have returned to Australia on the Soundwave tour, and are playing several sideshows. I’m flying to Perth to see them at Soundwave, but the chance to see them in a tiny club? There was no way in hell I was missing this.

The support was a welcome surprise, with Wollongong band Metraya replacing Newsted at the last minute (According to one of their guitarists, who’s also a former co-worker of mine, at 2:30 that afternoon…) and got the crowd going with an energetic set. My list of funny stage banter* also has a new entry, with “We are Metraya, and this is a song called METRAYA!” (I love bands who write songs about themselves – see also Hammerfall and Manowar) Despite having a fairly thankless job (Several people in the crowd were wondering why they didn’t just let Testament play longer), they got a good reaction with 40 minutes of early Slayer esque thrashing and left the stage to cheers. Check em’ out.

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Metraya doing their thing

40 minutes later, (Which featured a section of audience near me having a sing-along to Master of Puppets) and the strains of Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner and Testament hit the stage, storming through Rise Up to applause and roars in equal measure.

Guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson and new/returning bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Mjolnir pendant round his neck) were in fine form, frequently stepping up on the monitors to shred (Ala Steve Harris) and nearly hitting the ceiling in the process. Drummer Gene Hoglan smacked seven shades of shit out of his kit and singer Chuck Billy’s habit of air guitaring using a half-length microphone stand never get’s old. We got a good mix of old and new, with the highlights mostly the sing along songs, such as More than Meets the Eye (Which isn’t, as far as I know, about the Transformers), Dark Roots of Earth and an utterly storming Into the Pit, while Native Blood was dedicated to the local indigenous population. What was most evident though, was the sense of how much fun the band were having – there were smiles all round, with Skolnick’s goofy grin as he unleashed another brutal riff a sight to behold. I could grumble about the set only being an hour and 20, but it was worth it for the atmosphere. You can take your stadium gigs and shove them – give me a tiny room and the ability to make eye contact with the stage any time. Oh, and Gene Hoglan brushed past me on his way outside pre-gig. *swoons*

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Alex Skolnick (Left) and Eric Peterson (Right) duelling axes

Heads were banged. Horns were thrown. Beer was drunk. It was a metal show. What more is there to say?

*The top of the list is Down singer Phil Anselmo introducing a song about marijuana legalisation with “This one goes out to… Where the fuck are we?”

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STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

Is an underrated Iron Maiden song, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m here to talk about gaming, specifically live action gaming.

The New Zealand LARP scene is awesome – seriously, it’s freaking awesome. Thanks to having the best wife in the world, I got to spend a day LARPing, on a holiday that was primarily about attending a family wedding. Do I have the best wife? Yes, yes I do). I’d previously gone there to game for the opening of St Wolfgang’s Vampire Hunters (I’m still embarrassed that they wrote plot for me, but couldn’t wake me) back in 2007 and itched to go back ever since.

We were talking part in the introductory games for the up-coming campaign Crucible, which sees several nations arriving on a mysterious new island. We, the crew, were playing members of the Wild Hunt, a grouping of the children of the forest such as trolls, satyrs, dryads etc and were made up as such.IMAG0136

A very exhausted, slightly dehydrated troll with half his face melted off

The 2 games that took place on the day saw the arrival on the island of the two of the game’s factions, the Drazhar and the Alteraanians. The Drazhar (Who are basically the Dothraki from Game of Thrones with a little less rape and pillage, a little more action) arrived, only to find themselves confronted by angry natives (That’d be us, the crew) and mostly unarmed (Whether a player had their weapons at the start was decided by a game of Rock/Paper/Scissors beforehand). Wisely, they chose to surrender.

After taking them back to our encampment (Around the corner from a pair of sunbathers, who were giving us some very strange looks), they were prodded with questions, tested on their skills and told to pick 3 of their landing to chase down a captive of ours, a sorcerer of the Ebon Legion, an NPC (Non Player Character) faction of demon worshippers despised by all. In this, they failed miserably, but it was A: stupidly hot and B: several were wearing armour. The game ended with a rousing fight between the new allies and a group of the Legion, which was a rousing victory for the good guys. (I played little part in the battle, but I’m open about the fact I’m a fairly shit fighter.)

The second game had a lot less details – basically, fight, rest and fight. The Alteraanians (A race of merchants and the richest of the factions) were confronted by an angry group of the Wild Hunt as they picked themselves up off the beach. We’d been instructed not to kill any of them, but give them a good scare. This, we managed quite well, as they’d left themselves spread out and unable to protect many of the more squishy members of their band. The second battle saw them much improved, bottle necking an opening with fighters with heavy armour and shields. Needless to say we tried, but got battered down repeatedly. And thus ended the day…

It was a blast and made the ensuing exhaustion, mild sunburn and feeling of “Oh gods, I’ve not used those muscles in far too long” worth it. It’s also made me want to do more work on getting the Sydney scene in shape, so we could one-day have games that Kiwis want to come play. Of the two games that I know of, Journeyman is the closest to getting going (And by which I mean it needs a lot of work), while Swordcraft Sydney (An offshoot of the Melbourne game) is still in the early stages. Not to mention, the I kind of owe the Freeform Collective a game…

SOUNDWAVE SUPERIOR, CONSTRUCTICONS INFERIOR

First off, if you know what the title of this post references, you have taste. *light applause*

Secondly, I’m back from New Zealand and am busily catching up on all the news I missed while I was stuck with shitty Wi-Fi. Still coming down from a fantastic LARP experience (Which I’ll be writing about later) and walking through Hobbiton, which is eyeball meltingly beautiful.

It’s a week till Soundwave Perth and they finally released a timetable. There’s only one major clash and I’ve got enough time between bands to hydrate etc. Anyhow, here’s what the timetable looks like:
11:00-11:40 The Porkers / Amon Amarth – The Porkers bring the awesome, but Amon have a longship as part of the stage show. Well, half of a longship, but it’s still HALF OF A FUCKING LONGSHIP. Tough choice. Boils down to songs about beer and not getting laid or songs about Vikings and mead. Tough choice.
12:00-12:30 Nancy Vandal – Cheap jokes, teenage nostalgia and songs about the Simpsons. Who could resist that?
1:20-2:00 Testament – A large chunk of the reason I’m going. So long as they play ‘Into the Pit’ I’ll be happy, but if they play ‘The Persecuted Won’t Forget’ I’ll be ecstatic.
2:40-3:20 GWAR – It’s for the stage show.
5:40-6:20 Skindred – It’d be too much to ask for a Dub War cover or two, but a man can dream right? Still, watching Benji Webbe do his thing is worth it.
7:15-8:15 Rob Zombie – As with Gwar, it’s for the stage show. Maybe a White Zombie tune or two?
8:45-10:00 Avenged Sevenfold – What I’ve heard of them I’ve enjoyed, but they apparently insisted on playing in the dark so I’m guessing they’ll be a lot of pyro and more KABOOM is good in my book.

So, only one question remains – do I wear my kilt or not? Readers?

Trailers, titles and television.

Welcome dear readers!

Sorry for being a bit late this week – the heat has once again conspired against me. Not much has happened of interest, outside of booking for the Soundwave Festival! I’ve resisted festivals in the past, but there’s too many bands at this one I really want to see who, as a bonus, are touring here for the first time, primarily the mighty Testament and ragga metallers Skindred.

It’ s been a week for new trailers, with a gorgeous spot for Amazing Spider-Man 2 stuffed full of Easter Eggs for fans, the new Muppets Most Wanted cheerfully mocking studios use of Twitter quotes for press and a pair of jaw dropping new trailers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which drops more hints about what’s going on without actually spiling anything. Compare and contrast that with the first teaser for Transformers: Age of Extinction, which is 30 seconds of slow motion CGI, explosions and Mark Wahlberg looking dramatic. Well, that and the AWE INSPIRING -sight of Optimus Prime riding Grimlock into battle like GIANT ROBOT DINOSAUR CALVALRY. (You have no idea just how much fun that was to type)

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Grimlock love you, but only have 14 hours to save Cybertron!

Some interesting casting news happened, with the news that Jesse Eisenberg is Lex Luthor and Jeremy Irons is Alfred in Batman vs Superman. Eisenberg’s an interesting choice for a younger Luthor, while Irons is British, so, yeah. We also have another possible title for the film, Man of Steel: Fight or Flight. That’s terrible, but it’s the least terrible option so far – yay for the lesser evil! In more British casting news, Paul Bettany (The voice of JARVIS in the Iron Man movies) will be playing The Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron. This – this I’m a fan of.

It’s now time to play the unverified casting rumour game! First up, Evangeline Lilly is said to be in talks for the female lead in Ant-Man (We don’t know if it’s Janet Van Dyne yet either) and Dwayne Johnson tweeted #LanternCanWhupSuperman and thus set the speculation train moving again. So we’re ignoring the Ryan Reynolds version? If it means we get him playing Deadpool, I’m OK with that.

Moving back to Captain America 2, there’s a gallery of new pictures, a preview clip (Taken from the Thor: The Dark World Blu-Ray) that has a pretty massive spoiler in it and there’s a competition running over what TV show Cap will be watching during the film. Sadly it’s only for the UK release, but I still voted for Doctor Who, which is coming second behind Sherlock, with Father Ted a distant third. It’s also set to have a knock on effect for Age of Ultron and Agents of SHIELD, which, if you aren’t watching, means Clark Gregg doesn’t like you.

18853_original How can you say no to a face like that?

 Plans are apparently in the works for a sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy by 2016, Drew Pearce (Who wrote the Marvel one-shot All Hail the King) has been talking about Runaways (About a group of children who discover their parents are supervillains) and the gag reel for Thor: The Dark World as is awesome as you’d expect. We have what could be the first look at Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch of X-Men: Days of Future Past and director Marc Webb has announced actor BJ Novak’s role in Amazing Spider-Man 2. We’d just tell you, but there’s possible spoilers, so yeah. Consider yourselves warned!

We’ve had some movement on the Fantastic Four reboot – several blogs were threatened with legal action after reporting a strange synopsis. Said synopsis was, well, different, so the threats were initially taken as evidence that it was genuine. Thankfully, director Josh Trank has debunked it, saying the only similarities are ‘there are characters named Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben,’which is nice and reassuring. Meanwhile, casting has indicated they’re open to a female Doctor Doom. I’m not totally against that, but can’t they just use Lucia Von Bardas instead?

A sequel to The Lego Movie is already being planned and while I really want to see the movie, it’s more than a bit depressing that it’s Wonder Woman’s cinema debut. That’s right DC Comics and Warner Brothers – LEGO BEAT YOU. In more uplifting Lego news, a Lego version of the X-Men’s mansion has been proposed and it is downright amazing. Seriously, it’s even got a Danger Room in there. A new clip and details of the soundtrack for Knights of Badassdom have been released (It’s Bear McCreary – I’m buying it) and staying with gaming, we recently had the 40th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons! By the way, did you know that Ice-T recently narrated a D&D audiobook?

 08-1  Yes, that’s Ice-T playing a mutant kangaroo. In his defence, it was the 90’s…

 Painkiller Jane (Previously a TV movie and series on the SyFy channel) may be headed for the big screen and the adaption of JG Ballard’s novel High Rise will star Tom Hiddleston. In mixed news, Snowpiercer will be uncut upon its released in the US, but it’ll be getting a limited arthouse cinema release. So equal amounts of yay and booo!

Turning to the idiot box, alternate history comic The Red Star is coming to television, as is a series based on John Scalzi’s book Redshirts, about the more expendable members of a starship crew,  and it’s been confirmed that Preacher will be airing on AMC. SyFy US are developing a series based on the DC Comics series DMZ, Studio Ghibli are working on a new anime series and the CW’s The Flash series has cast Iris West.

There’s some new propaganda posters for Star Wars: Rebels and if you’re (Quite rightly) concerned about the Constantine series, he’ll be from London and will have the accent. Neil Gaiman has given an update on the TV versions of his books American Gods and Anansi Boys and read Dr Suess’s Green Eggs and Ham. It’s glorious, trust me. The only thing that could out cute that this week has been Benedict Cumberbatch’s appearance on Sesame Street and that was magnificent.

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 Ia! Ia! Gaiman fhtagn!

The adaption of video game Uncharted has a director, Zachary Quinto will be co-starring in the reboot of Hitman, but we won’t be seeing a 6th Resident Evil film this year, for which we must be thankful for small mercies. In things we should be thankful for without sarcasm, a CG Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers film is being planned. My inner child would like to argue about how it’ll be butchered like all the other movies based on 80’s cartoons, but it’s too busy singing the theme tune to care.

We end this week discussing, as I frequently do, the glory of the lightsaber, which is still my favourite sword of all. Yes, the longsword is a beautiful and elegant weapon, as are the katana and rapier and I have a lot of love for the simplicity of the gladius, but none of them have the same effect on me as the hum of a lightsaber. Anyhow, there’s an example of a lightsaber fight in the dark and a series of lightsaber combat academies have opened in Italy. Sure, it’s a geekier version of sport fencing, but if that get’s more people into swordsmanship, than I’m OK with that.

Quote of the Week:

“Hey,” said Shadow. “Huginn or Muninn, or whoever you are.”
The bird turned, head tipped, suspiciously, on one side, and it stared at him with bright eyes.
“Say ‘Nevermore,'” said Shadow.
“Fuck you,” said the raven.”

Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Cheers,

Gavin