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ggreig: (Western gentleman)
For anyone hanging on tenterhooks as to what's on the second disk of Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards, it is...

...Space 1992: Apocalypse Suite For Orchestra & Choir, featuring the Cowdenbeath Symphony Orchestra. It's an orchestral version of the album, with the tracks renamed after a quote from each (including track 9 of course, An Epic War Is Fight). It's a decent performance, and interesting to hear that it adapts so comfortably, but frankly I prefer the electric bombast of the original.

Sadly, there are no details of the composition of "the Cowdenbeath Symphony Orchestra" in the credits and the only mention I could find online was in reference to the album, but amongst the small print there was this disclaimer of which I approve:

No unicorns were harmed in the making of this album. However, 5.448 billion humans were terminally harmed in the destruction of Earth during track 10. This was an unfortunate side-effect for which we apologise profusely. Please send any complaints to the Dark Sorcerer Zargothrax at the following address: zargothrax at gloryhammer.com
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

A thousand years have passed since the events of Tales From the Kingdom of Fife, when Zargothrax, Dark Sorcerer of Auchtermuchty, invaded Dundee with an army of undead unicorns before eventually being imprisoned in a frozen pool of liquid ice, encasing his immortal body in a cage of eternal frost. (“Seems legit”, as the top comment under the relevant YouTube video says.)

Now, in the far distant future year of 1992, Zargothrax is released from his prison of frost by a cult of unholy chaos wizards, and Dundee and the Galactic Empire of Fife must be defended from their evil domination by King Angus McFife XIII (descendant of the original Crown Prince Angus McFife) and the eagle-riding Knights of Crail.

Yes, it’s Gloryhammer’s second album, Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards. (Buy it!)

Like the previous album, it romps joyously through a Fife-flavoured galaxy of cheese. It’s a worthy successor, but with more laser-powered hammers, chambers of cryogenetical fire, robots, cosmic rage (of Astral Dwarves from Aberdeen), and eagle-riding Space Knights of Crail.

Stylistically, it’s still HEROIC FANTASY POWER METAL (of course), but as befits a more futuristic epic, there’s a greater role for synthesisers than was previously the case.

The previous tale concluded in the ten-minute Epic Rage of Furious Thunder. This album doesn’t pull its punches either, with another 10 minute epic finale – Apocalypse 1992. I can’t express how accurately this track captures the far-off technological future of 1992 – you’ll just have to listen to it and find out for yourself.

As for me – I’m also waiting, for the physical album to arrive, so that I can find out what the disc of bonus tracks has to offer…

ggreig: (Bah Humbug)

Walking With Dinosaurs movie poster

I went to see this today, because Walking With Dinosaurs. It is both good and awful.

The awful comes first, because it really is important that you know about it before considering watching this movie (I did and took my chances).

Like many wildlife films, Walking With Dinosaurs sets up some of the animals as characters to follow through the movie. The awful bit is, it gives them voices. Actually no, the really awful bit is that the script for those voices is straight out of a bad Saturday morning cartoon. There are two American kid brothers growing up (pachyrhinosaurs). One is stronger but a bit less bright than the other – the underdog’s the hero of course – and there’s a girl pachyrhinosaurus who becomes a love interest. Then there’s a wise-cracking Mexican bird (John Leguizamo – perhaps he’s fed up with being a sloth). There’s no attempt to lip-synch the dialogue – although actually this might be a good point, as I’ll explain below – so there’s a further alienating disconnect between what you’re seeing on screen and what you’re hearing.

Maybe all this will draw in a big junior audience; but I wouldn’t bet on it. I’ve been to some fairly sparsely attended cinema showings, but I don’t think I’ve ever had Cinema 1 at the NPH to myself before (at least the circle – I can’t swear to the stalls being empty but it was awfully quiet). On a Saturday evening just before Christmas. Maybe it clashed with a lot of Christmas parties?

Someone else's picture of the interior of the NPH, taken from the circle. There were fewer people there tonight than there are in this photo.

So what are the good bits? The visuals, as you would expect from the Walking With Dinosaurs brand, are really good. Without the physical models that distinguished the earliest Walking With Dinosaurs output, you’re often aware you’re watching CGI, but it’s still pretty good. There are a few places where it’s played for laughs visually, but these are generally not too intrusive. The most gratuitous example is our hero suffering a terrible indignity under the tail of a much larger adult. Other examples are along the lines of dinosaurs slipping on ice and aren’t too overstated. I rather suspect the facial expressions are a bit anthropomorphised, but again it doesn’t seem too heavy-handed.

Given what I said above about the awful script for this movie, it may come as a surprise that I think it actually tells a powerful and effective story. Visually, considering they’re clearly targeting a young audience and have complete control over what happens, few punches are pulled. While it’s not totally nature red in tooth and claw, animals die in this movie when they’re attacked by carnivores, including some we care about. The terrible dialogue detracts from the impact of the scenes, which is perhaps to some extent what it’s supposed to do.

This could actually be a good and quite moving movie, if it had a completely different soundtrack. If you’re an adult, wait until it’s available cheap on DVD, and play it on mute. The lack of lip-synch will help here, as it's not obvious the animals are talking. It would be great if someone could create an alternative score to accompany it.

In the category of “noteworthy, but why?” bits:

  1. The story’s book-ended by scenes with some kids and a palaeontologist played by Karl Urban (Éomer in LOTR, Judge Dredd, and Dr. McCoy in the rebooted Star Trek). He’s totally wasted in this role and I don’t know why they spent money on getting a decent actor for a few insignificant scenes when they don’t even use him in any way to promote the film.
  2. A herd of migrating Edmontosaurus are accompanied by Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk. Er? OK, it’s a nice track and I guess it’s for the rhythm, but the first thing it made me think was, ah, these must be Iguanodon (because of the thumb spike).
  3. New dinosaurs were introduced by a brief freeze and text labelling as to what they were. Perfectly fine in a documentary, weird in a film. Given it probably did have to be there, I think I would rather have had more information.
  4. The 3D is nice but not compelling most of the time; they succumb to gimmickry at one particular point that was effective enough to make me jump, but it’s not part of the main body of the movie. I feel as though I should be a bit offended by that, but ho-hum. Other stuff offended me more – see above!
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

OK, how have I not heard about this before today?

Possibly the greatest concept album in the history of the world EVER, Tales From The Kingdom of Fife (buy it!) tells how the proud city of Dundee was destroyed by the evil sorceror Zargothrax and his army of undead unicorns…

…leading the prince of Fife, Angus McFife (noble and true with a heart of steel, natch), to swear vengeance:

Another favourite track is Hail to Crail, which is all about how hard the knights of Crail are, with their riding on eagles and all that.

Turns out that the band Gloryhammer (with a style self described as Heroic Fantasy Power Metal) are a side project spun off from Alestorm, the leading exponents of True Scottish Pirate Metal. Erm, perhaps the only exponents of True Scottish Pirate Metal. Anyway, enjoy Keelhauled:

...and the more thrashy but epic Death Throes of the Terrorsquid. Watch for the pose at the end:




ggreig: (Default)
Cool story from the Early Learning Centre in Dundee.
ggreig: (Saint George)

 image

Find out more about Captain Biplane, intrepid airman from a parallel universe, here, or just jump straight into the first episode of Kidnappers from Mercury. Episode 2 is to come later, followed by Green Pirates of Jupiter! The best way to get notified of future instalments is probably this RSS feed.

ggreig: (Black Hat)

25 years ago, I came to St. Andrews and joined WARSoc, the Wargaming And Role-playing Society at the University. I fancied giving wargaming a try, but everyone seemed to be involved in role-playing games instead. I was pointed at one particular group who were using miniatures, because that was about as wargamy as it got.

For the next five years, until he drew it to a close, I played in [livejournal.com profile] flybynightpress's historical fantasy game, New Jerusalem. NJ was a town on the border between eastern Germany and Færie, probably somewhere in what is now modern Poland. The inhabitants were godly puritans who stood fast against the encroachments of witches, Papists and particularly the abominations in the wilderness that surrounded the town (i.e. creatures of the Devil such as goblins, hobgoblins, trolls, giants, etc.).

It was a fantastic introduction to role-playing. The town of New Jerusalem was a classic Base Under Siege, and player characters had to deal with paranoia (their own and that of other citizens, PC and NPC) and issues of faith. Whether your character really believed or not, the appearance of belief was not optional. There was an ever-present threat of being burnt at the stake if you were found to be ungodly. Characters who did believe had to deal with shades of grey; when you went out into the wilderness you tended to discover that while the “abominations” might sometimes have interests that were inimical to yours, they were sometimes nicer people than the adventurers… Definite anti-hero territory.

Review the film, already! )
ggreig: (Saint George)

There’s a story on the BBC web site about steampunk style, which is worth a quick look.

For those who don’t know, the round/square bullet choice mentioned in the video really existed for a historical but ultimately unsuccessful multi-shot flintlock weapon, the 1718 Puckle Gun, although it  wasn’t aliens that the square bullets were for. It’s often billed as an early machine gun, but that wouldn’t quite be an accurate description.

ggreig: (Robot Maria)

To make up for the previous post on November 5th, about British sci-fi and fantasy TV that could only be watched online if you were inside the UK, here’s some that you can only watch if you’re outside the UK (including Edge of Destruction, which I’ve never seen − <gnash, grumble>). They’re on the BBC Worldwide YouTube channel. Unfortunately I can’t explore it effectively because I’m in the UK, but it definitely has:

and

Because it’s viewable outside the UK, it’s advertising-supported; I don’t know how intrusive that will be.

ggreig: (Robot Maria)

MSN are putting classic British sci-fi/fantasy TV online to watch free in the UK (edit, sorry if your hopes were falsely raised). Currently there’s Day of the Triffids, Neverwhere, The Quatermass Experiment (the 2005 live remake) and Doctor Who’s The Web Planet (1st Doctor).

On the Doctor Who page, it says “come back to see new episodes every Tuesday and Friday from November 10th”, so The Web Planet isn’t all you’ll get.

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