Monday, March 23, 2009

Interview with Angelo Munro from the Bleeders

This is an interview I conducted and wrote exclusively for the club that I run, TrueRockSoc. I decided against submitting it into CANTA as I wanted some exclusive content for the club blog.

So tell us, what has been going on in The Bleeder’s camp? It’s been a while since we heard anything from you guys following last year’s self-titled album.

Yeah, I guess last year we did a couple of tours to support the record, and then took a break for 6 weeks before moving to Toronto in January where we are now based for next year. We have played a little bit..but looking to tour a lot more towards the U.S. summer. Also some writing towards a new album is a bit of a focus right now.

As arguably one of the most recognisable figures in the NZ music scene do you feel some kind of celebrity status or is our wee country too small to even consider yourself as a celebrity?

Haha not at all! I'm recognisable if you like what we do and you know the band, but I definately don't get harrased in the supermarket which I like. I am definately not a celebrity, I hate that shit. Manu that's a celeberity! He is the man!

Many bands head West to boost their careers but have been largely unsuccessful in doing so (Shihad case-in-point), is the North American hardcore scene very supportive for you boys?

Well you know...NZ is always easy to point out about bands trying overseas and beeing unsuccessfull, but Shihad for instance, they weren't a failure by any stretch of the imagination. The population over here is a hell of a lot more, so expectations are higher. If you get signed to say a major like they were and you sell like 80,000 CDs per se...they see that as failure here. So you get dropped. Reports come back to NZ that they were dropped and its seen as a failure here too. But in the meantime they have probably got a nice small fanbase and can come here and play club tour to 200-300 people per night (or more, I'm not exactly sure what they do) and to do that in a country on the other side of the world from your home is amazing!

So to me...anything's a bonus. If we stayed in NZ for 2009 it would of gotten stale for us. So we are here, and we are grateful for anything. If we come home next year and can say we toured the States and Canada multiple times and have a CD out here with several thousand buying it I will die a happy man!

And far so good for the Canadians. USA is yet to see Bleeders as of yet. Maybe in a few months!

Tell us about Deadboy Records, you’ve signed on False Start and other emerging hardcore bands.

Yeah false start have done 2 CDs on my label, they were on board very early and have been my top seller for sure! I got like 6 bands on my roster its fun. It's more of a hobby for me, but at the same time I can help bands get their CDs out and keep the costs low you its cool. My label is very diverse, from emo/pop to brutal hardcore shit... like In Dread Response.

What’s your thoughts on NZ music month? Do we need it or should our local music always be able to support itself without the aid of mass-marketing?

I don't really care either way, I used to think there's no point shoving it down peoples throats. But you band has had great support over the years and had shit pretty easy. So nz music month gives some bands that are under the radar a bit more exposure!

The Bleeders are known for their determined touring and intense live performances, care to share any horror stories from the road?

Bro we dont have anything to tell..seriously!

Finally, when can we expect to see you back in NZ? We’ve been missing our favourite hardcore act!

Next year for sure. We hope to record a new album later this year or early next year, and come home to tour it. Or...we may just come back to live. We have definately not claimed we are here no talking about us failing please if we do just the 1 year! Haha!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

No Line On the Horizon - U2

It’s been five years since U2’s last studio effort, a big gap for a band who in their almost 30 year career have released eleven previous records. In this time they have written some great music, but it seems with No Line On the Horizon they may have dropped the ball.

I shouldn’t be all too negative about this album, there are some great songs on it. A nice cushy love song can be found in ‘Magnificent’ and the single ‘Get On Your Boots’ is pretty groovy, deserving the amount of radio attention it’s been getting lately. The same should be said about the opener ‘No Line on the Horizon’ as well, but it is unfortunately ruined by the fact that it is repeated as a closing track with minor musical alterations and different lyrics. Normally this can work if it acts as a kind of closing credits function only lasting a minute or so, but it is an entire song in itself which paints a pretty lazy picture.

What is interesting is that a lot of the songs are based in the perspective of some poor soul suffering through war and poverty or even a journalist covering these global issues. This would normally make for some pretty interesting lyrics but unfortunately they end up resembling those of an accountant for the Green Party, of particular note is ‘Cedars of Lebanon’ with the lyrics “Child drinking dirty water from the river bank/ Soldier brings oranges he got out from a tank” and so on…you get my point. Talking about lyrics there is a significant lack of such with too many choruses relying on the “Oh-oh ooohhh-ooooooh oh” style of speak resulting in the aforementioned laziness.

My biggest beef with U2’s No Line On the Horizon is the fact that it’s very linear; none of the songs really stand out and more or less just blend together. That doesn’t mean that it’s a bad album, but it seems to me that U2 are starting to lose their way.

2.5 stars

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Parappa the Rappa: Killzone 2 (PS3)

I am always sketchy about games that receive mountains of hype by faceless marketing departments in the lead up to their releases. Sure, the game looks pretty and we are promised oh so much for forking out the hundred or so from our already thin wallets for it, but most of the time these games turn out to be unpolished and uninspired. However, Killzone 2 has done the improbable by actually matching its own hype with stellar visuals and some of the most intense firefights in recent memory.

The plot of Killzone 2 is not exactly gripping, but then again it cannot be called garbage. All you really need to know is that the evil Helghast Empire is now on the defensive back-foot after the American accent-toting Interplanetary Strategic Alliance managed to repel their invasion of the planet colony Vekta from the first Killzone. As soon as you pick up the game you are thrown into the invasion of the planet Helghan in a D-Day inspired scenario crash-landing on a beach…if you could call it that. Helghan is far from a holiday resort with some genuinely menacing environments on offer adding nicely to the dark tone of war given off by the game; this is complemented further by the enemies sporting glowing red eyes and evil English accents wheezing through post-apocalyptic helmets and gas masks.

Combat is exciting and intense providing a great challenge throughout the game to the degree that you never get to the point of partaking in a spot of controller-discuss. The controls feel spot-on with great responsiveness while retaining the feeling of your character’s weight. By sticking with bullets over lasers, Killzone 2 avoids Halo’s fantastical sci-fi approach to weaponry in favour of raw grit, the result of which is a far more believable experience reminiscent of shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty. However in saying that special mention has to go to the electricity spewing gun and grenades that prove to be very useful for mechanical foes and provide humour in hearing your more fleshy enemies’ garbled screams. Killzone 2’s gamble with the inclusion of a cover mechanic pays off allowing you to reload and (briefly) plan your next move without becoming Swiss cheese. The game even makes use of the largely useless Sixaxis motion control system by using it to turn valves and plant C4 charges. While most of the time this feels well designed, there are a few moments when going from staunchly firing your gun to flailing and twisting your controller in the midst of battle makes you feel like a bit of a dork.

Outside of the main campaign, there is further evidence of Killzone 2’s greatness by the inclusion of a great online multiplayer with some great maps and modes. The set up of multiplayer is superb in that you do not necessarily have to stick with the bog-standard death match. Once an objective is completed, the game assigns a new mode seamlessly through radio commands, the result of which can have you scrambling around the map completing search and destroy-style missions for a few minutes before smoothly changing to hiding in a corner while your teammates protect you from being popped in assassination missions. Even if you do not have access to the internet, the team at Guerrilla have included a Skirmish mode teaming you up with and against teams of bots playing multiplayer missions which adds a lot of replay value to an otherwise linear game.

While the original Killzone on the PS2 was average, Guerrilla have finally got the formula right with a superb shooter that gives the 360’s heavyweights Gears and Halo a real run for their money and effectively puts the PS3 back on the FPS map.

4.5 stars

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Brant Bjork and the Bros at Al's Bar

Whenever a well renowned international rock act comes to Christchurch one would expect them to be perform in the town hall, Westpac or some other decent venue. However, what would be the case for the more underground rock acts of the, say, Palm Desert stoner era? Al's Bar is the only choice; a bar that holds local and underground live rock true to its gritty young heart and intimate atmosphere. And what better underground act than the legendary Brant Bjork who made his name as the stickman for desert/stoner rock pioneers Kyuss (the members of whom included Josh Homme).

Arrivingto the gig after a few late beers and an even later bus this reviewer unfortunately missed all but the final two songs of supporting act Second Gear Grind (UC represent!). However SGG proved they were more than worthy to support the a stoner rock legend with heavy bass and guitar driven rock led superbly by vocalist S.Bell's strong vocals showcasing their influence by the band that made Bjork famous but also combining it with a more metal-like sound reminiscent of sludge rock and metal. For the entirity of their epic songs (and I'm sure their set for that matter) they had the crowd grooving in such a way that only stoner rock fans can - heavy nodding and side swaying...the cool way.

Almost straight off the bat Bjork and his support band The Bros established themselves as all about the music launching straight into it; no arsing around, just pure unadulterated rock'n'motherfucking'roll. Bjork retained the perfect stoner rock look dressed (to put it bluntly) like a bum keeping his attention to the lazy rock and was aided greatly by heavy bass of the Bros' bassist and their baritone axeman Max Roddings. In fact so heavy was the grooves of the set that when I briefly ventured out of the mosh pit (if you could call it that) to break the seal that the entire mens toilets were shaking with a force that could only be compared to a dragon farting. As this gig was part of Brant Bjork's tour for his 2008 album 'Punk Rock Guilt' there were a few songs featured in the set, but due to my aforementioned lack of knowledge of his music I can't really tell you what they were. What I can tell you however was that the songs all reeked of dirty desert rock goodness that is so very under-appreciated in this day-and-age of bland Chad Kroegerness...but I'll save a further explanation of this for another day.

By the time Bjork and the Bros wrapped up their set of heavy grooves and amp'd tunes I was re-hooked on the stoner rock vibe and keen to grab a copy of their latest album, this would not be the case however. Due to the fact that this was a bar there was no chance of getting money out, so I've now resided to the fact that when Studylink comes through it will be right on the top of the list of things to claim as part of course related costs - I'm a Mass Coms's gotta count for something right? But as far as Wednesday nights go, proclaimed Bjork midset, the night was about as close to a Thursday as you could get, and that coming from an underground legend in my books is pretty darn good.