Tag: Music (page 2 of 3)

I Wanna Do Laser

Courtesy Terribleminds
Courtesy Terribleminds, make with the clicky-clicky

I was going to put this off until tomorrow. I was thinking of putting up my entry to Chuck’s contest as late as possible. But I can’t. I’m way too inspired, way too charged, to hold onto this that long. He set the word limit at 1000, so I guess my hope is to deliver twice the story in half the verbiage. That is to say: this is 500 words, and it’s all about doing laser. And rocking your face. Enjoy.

The most amazing thing I’ve ever seen on stage is the Wendigos. These guys that write songs based on odd search engine terms, and not every song they do catches the imagination of an audience. Most of the people in the stadium that night were there for the headlining band, anyway. But as they launched into their last song, ‘I Wanna Do Laser,’ something started happening. It was like night and day. Just a minute before people were wondering what the hell ‘Oatmeal Boat Canvas’ was all about. But the pulsing groove of that final song, the utter unfettered desire to live life, zap through obstacles, fucking DO something, was infectious. It rolled through the crowd like a plague of awesomeness, a sick fetid cloud of the unbelievably cool.

Chuck, the frontman, is rocking the mike. Thirty thousand people are getting into the groove of the song. After the first couple verses, the last two lines are grabbed by the audience who begin shouting it along with Chuck’s singing. In the middle of the song’s bridge, Chuck runs towards the back of the stage, towards the drum kit. His drummer, Larry, looks like he’s facing down a charging rhino. Chuck very nearly kicks Larry in the head as his foot heads for the bass drum pedal. He starts pounding out the beat of the song, which is how the bridge in the studio recording goes into the last verse, but Chuck has a different energy. His eyes are wild. Sweat is flying off his beard. He brings the mike up and shouts.

“My beard come so fat!”

He raises his fists in the air. The response from the audience is immediate, loud and boisterous.

I WANNA DO LASER!

“My beard come so fat!”

I WANNA DO LASER!

“My beard come so fat!”

I WANNA DO LASER!

Over and over again. The rest of the band stops playing. It’s just Chuck, pounding his foot down on that pedal and giving the prompts, communing with thirty thousand brand-new Wendigos fans. Larry and the others walk off stage. Finally, after a good two minutes of this orgy of joie de vivre, Chuck steps off of the pedal, and says it one more time.

“MY BEARD COME SO FAAAAAAAAT!”

I WANNAAAAAAAA DOOOOOOOO LAAAAAAAAAAASER!

The arena explodes. People are screaming. Chuck walks out to the front of the stage, looking around.

“Where’d everybody go?” Chuck looks off-stage. “You buncha pussies! Don’t YOU wanna do laser?”

He turns back to the audience, who are laughing, applauding, crying for an encore.

“What about YOU? YOU STILL OUT THERE??”

The voice of the crowd is like a wave. It washes over the stage and Chuck just stands there basking in it. He turns and looks to the band the Wendigos opened for. He’s grinning like a madman, white teeth shining out of the sweat-soaked tangle of his beard.

Steven Tyler turns to Joe Perry, looking like he just got kicked in the gut.

“Shit. We gotta follow THAT?”

A Confession Re: Frontalot

Courtesy Wikipedia

Okay. Here’s my nerd card. I’m turning it in.

I was aware of MC Frontalot before last week. I knew there was something called ‘nerdcore hip hop’ but since I don’t, in general, listen to hip hop as a whole, I was only aware of it and its artists on the level of intellectual curiosity. I appreciated the fact that folks not unlike myself were using the style to write songs about things other than pimpin’ one’s ho’s and squeezin’ one’s gats ’til their clips be empty.

Then Rachel told us about the best night she ever had in her entire life.

I took her suggestion, tried out some of Front’s tunes, and now I hang my head in shame for not being a fan of his before now.

This is a revelation not unlike the one I had when Portal made me aware of Jonathan Coulton, who is now working on getting some of his songs into Rock Band. I for one look forward to singing “Code Monkey” and “Re: Your Brains” next time we have a get-together with more than three people. Anyway, Front’s music does something that I really appreciate when it comes to hip hop – he eschews the usual trappings of swearing and themes related to cops, drugs and loose women, focusing his clean, intelligent rhymes on gaming, science fiction, blogging and other nerd-friendly topics. Two things about this statement: I’m not implying that rappers are unintelligent as a rule, and I know Front occasionally gets pissed about stuff. Like people blogging about their dogs.

I’ll fully admit that Front isn’t going to appeal to everybody. He’s focused on a demographic that’s familiar with the differences between console generations, the nuances of Havok physics, the debate between Next Generation & Deep Space Nine fans and the reasons why neo-conservative picketers calling themselves ‘teabaggers’ is so hilarious. Then again, chances are, you fit this demographic if you’re a regular visitor of this blog (which, hopefully, isn’t the kind Front’d hate on).

Here’s what I’m on about.

Are you smiling? Are you laughing? You better be.

It’s a frakkin’ nerd’s world, after all.

Game Review: Brütal Legend

Courtesy Double Fine
What isn’t awesome about this artwork? NOTHING THAT’S WHAT.

I, like Yahtzee, love Tim Schafer. We’ve taken turns talking about how great he is. I grew up on games like Day of the Tentacle and I adored Full Throttle. Psychonauts quickly grew on me (after my fingers healed up) and when Tim finally returned with Brütal Legend, I was very excited. Having played the game, I still think he’s a genius. The game, on the other hand, I’m a bit less passionate about, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have fun playing it.

Eddie Riggs is a roadie. He’s not a front man or a guitarist or anything of the sort. I mean, sure, the man can wail on an ax with the best of them and knows good music when he hears it – and cringes when he hears bad music – but he’s a roadie. He stays in the wings and helps a band look good. He can fix, build and do just about anything, but he never wanted to be in the spotlight. Until a spotlight fell on him, that is. Several spotlights, in fact, and a whole lot of set design. His near-death experience took him to another world instead of a hospital, a world of pure heavy metal imperiled the forces of darkness and the onslaught of screechy hair metal. It’s Eddie’s job to take command of the resistance and lead them to victory. The final goal of that victory, to liberate the world or blow it to smithereens, is kinda murky. Prophecies are like that.

Stuff I Didn’t Like

Courtesy Double Fine
“C’mon. Just three little words. Say it. ‘Nickelback sucks.'”

  • Unlabeled maps make the baby Jesus fume with rage. I’m not asking you to tell me exactly where everything is if exploration is one of your selling points, and I do love to explore. No – just tell me where things are after I find them. When I pass something, unlock a new area or catch sight of a landmark, jot that down on the map. It shouldn’t be that hard. Why am I only seeing Metal Forges and sidequests on the map when I bring it up? How does that help me?
  • Likewise the in-game tutorials aren’t terribly informative. I had no idea how to unlock the various draconic gargoyle statue things littered around the landscape until I looked it up on a fan site. Nobody in the game told me what they were for or how to free them, just that I had to. And I still don’t know how to switch around the faces on Mount Rockmore.
  • A lot has been said about the game’s RTS gameplay. As someone who’s played a variety of RTS games, from the original Command & Conquer to StarCraft, I had a few quibbles about it myself. The inability to see the battleground from above felt like a major hindrance, selecting individual units took longer than I felt comfortable with since most of the enemy was running up to pound my face into the nearest hard surface, and blending the third-person adventure controls with RTS controls felt hasty in its construction and shifting gears from beating ass to issuing commands broke the flow of combat somewhat. I don’t object to the existence of RTS in this game – just its execution.

Stuff I Liked

Courtesy Double Fine
“Dig the wheels, baby? I got ’em from this crazy mumbling dude in a dress.”

  • That said, I love the idea of being with my troops during the battle. When I first heard General Lionwhyte wailing away as he floated there on his hair-wings, my first thought was to run over to him and shut his pasty whiny ass up. And that’s exactly what I did! No need to sortie other troops, I just zipped over and started unloading on him.
  • The art direction of the world is pretty cool. It feels like the studio over at Double Fine is wallpapered with old Queensryche and Megadeth albums and that’s what the artists used to make this world feel awesome.
  • The riffs you learn to summon your car, raise forges and do other things is reminiscent of color-matching in Rock Band and are satisfying to pull off, especially in the middle of a stage battle.
  • I like Jack Black and I don’t care who knows it.
  • Switching between the melee and ‘magic’ attacks you have is very smooth, and it makes combat more interesting.
  • I like the characters. They’re not overly deep and complicated, but they’re cool and the voice acting is nicely done, which leads me to…

Stuff I Loved

Courtesy Double Fine
“It’s a fucking robe, you fucking prat!!”

  • Ozzy, Lemmy, Lita and Rob Halford. ‘Nuff said.
  • Oh, you want more? The soundtrack will kick your ass. It is awesome. I loved zipping around the landscape in the Druid Plow rocking out to metal. Dropping the Plow into the middle of a fight and kicking on a different tune to pump you up more helps get through some of the tedious bits of the RTS engine. It did for me, at least.
  • The bit at the beginning where you can choose the amount of swearing & gore makes me laugh every time. It would only be better if the censoring was in the style of Metalocalypse, laying guitar stings over the curses.

Bottom Line: Brütal Legend is one for metal fans and fans of Tim Schafer. Hardcore RTS fans, people expecting a sandbox game mixed with God of War or folks who can’t stand Jack Black aren’t going to enjoy this. I did, though. Rent it if you like badass music and a unique gameplay & story experience, buy it if you like the game after playing it.

And for the record, I was digging on the character of Lita more than Ophelia.

Courtesy Double Fine

I’m not entirely sure why. Just something about her.

Everything’s Cooler In Space: Mood Music

Jupiter & Callisto

Kicking around in the back of my head as I work on novels, video entries and freelance gaming submissions, the sci-fi tabletop project continues to slowly but surely take shape. Assisting that is a few pieces of music. I’ll list them for you, talk about their merits & nuances, and what they mean to this project.

Holst – “Mars, the Bringer of War”
[audio:http://www.blueinkalchemy.com/uploads/mars.mp3]

This is the opening movement to Gustav Holst’s famous suite on the planets. To me, there are few pieces of music that capture the excitement, pioneering attitude and downright scariness of true science fiction. It moves with a purpose, shifting between almost militaristic cadences and long, sweeping passages.

It fits this project for a variety of reasons. There’s the spectre of impending war that hangs over the interplanetary landscape, the feeling that mankind is teetering on the edge of something it doesn’t quite comprehend even as it quarrels with itself and the knowledge that the machinations of ambitious or even insane men are at work behind the scenes to drive the fate of humanity in one direction or another. “Mars” captures all of these feelings pretty well.

VNV Nation – “Sentinal”
[audio:http://www.blueinkalchemy.com/uploads/sentinal.mp3]

The first vocal track from their latest album, VNV Nation’s music has always captured a mood somewhere between revolutionary and soulful. Behind the strong beat and cascading note sequences, there’s a feeling of weariness. While there’s a desire for change, to better one’s self, there’s also the impression that a lot of time has been spent dreaming of a better tomorrow while greater forces in the world work against that goal.

In the future envisioned with this project, battles have been fought both great and small, with no clear victor in the end equation despite accolades and propaganda on both sides. The players, in a way, begin somewhere in the middle, where they can either move to an overarching view of the volatile situation or choose an allegiance with one side or the other. The reason for doing this, on any scale, is to usher in better days, be it for a particular faction or humanity as a whole.

Tool – “Lateralus”
[audio:http://www.blueinkalchemy.com/uploads/lateralus.mp3]

Incorporating the Fibonacci sequence and featuring a refrains scored in a rotating 9/8,8/8,7/8 time signature, the title track from Tool’s third studio album talks of man’s desire to explore himself and his interpretation of the world around him. The idea is to be unafraid of the unknown, willing to explore beyond the boundaries of what we know and learning to accept the things we do not. If someone can do that, if they can move across the borders between the everyday and the singular, one just might “go where no one’s been.”

To me, this song encapsulates the mentality of the foolishly brave men and women willing to hurl themselves headlong into the void of space. It fits perfectly with the dark sci-fi nature of the project. Also, by seeking to be different and transcend the particulars of their origins, players can move into new territory for them, influencing struggles of power between entire planets and possible redefining the destiny of mankind itself.

It may sound a bit ambitious, but I’ve never been accused of thinking too small.

Tim Schafer’s Genius

Back in the day when I was wearing braces and LucasArts was involved with games other than the Star Wars franchise, I got my hands on a six-pack of games from that publisher. It included Indiana Jones & the Fate of Atlantis, which was a better story than the latest film and executed in a far more appealing way, and Sam & Max Hit the Road which is about as madcap an experience as I had at that age. The other memorable entry from that box was Day of the Tentacle, which like the previous two was an adventure game in the SCUMM engine, and distinguished itself with very clever writing that made you laugh and think in equal portions throughout the experience.

The mind behind the game belongs to Tim Schafer. He continued to show his chops as one of the very finest in both game design and smart writing at LucasArts with his follow-ups, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. Nowhere else have I ever seen stuffed clockwork bunnies used to clear a minefield, nor are you likely to find another game where soft, noir music accompanies characters looking like the stuff of Aztec nightmares. However, it wasn’t long after the release of the latter game that LucasArts kicked out anybody unwilling to enslave themselves to the Star Wars franchise, and a lot of people like Tim were left looking for work.

Rather than hire himself out, Tim Schafer opened his own design studio called Double Fine. The first production of Double Fine was Psychonauts, an action-adventure about a young psychic named Razputin who runs away from the circus to join a summer camp where he can learn to use his mental abilities. Raz is already something of a prodigy and gets himself in without having to pay tuition. Karma’s rather unforgiving, however, and soon he’s put to work by the camp’s staff to help uncover a dangerous threat by exploring the minds of people around him. It’s fun, colorful, original, smart, and very funny in places.

I only picked up Psychonauts recently after recovering from the nearly crippling injury I’d inflicted on myself for not doing so sooner and found myself as delighted as I was during the rocking strains of Full Throttle‘s soundtrack or seeing Manny don a fine suit in Grim Fandango. It’s been a while since Double Fine’s been heard from, but they’re coming back with a rocking vengeance in October (or should that be Rocktober?) with Brütal Legend.

Jack Black lends his voice to Eddie Riggs, a roadie who is the absolute best in the business and carries on kicking ass behind the scenes despite his belief that real heavy metal is dead. He soon finds himself in a parallel world where demons have enslaved humanity and everything looks like a cross between an Iron Maiden video and Nordic mythology. Riggs, armed with his Flying V guitar (or “axe” if you will), an enchanted axe (an actual battle-axe in this case), and some sort of hot rod, has an entire world of metal to explore and it’s unclear if he’s been chose to become the world’s savior or its destroyer. Either way, it’s incredibly metal and I’d love to play the full version when it releases next month. I believe a demo will appear on X-Box Live Arcade soon, and the best thing about demos for games like this and Batman: Arkham Asylum is that they’re free.

Tim Schafer is an inspiration to anybody who writes speculative fiction or has ideas that might be seen as somewhat off the wall. Check out the opening of Brütal Legend, and whatever you might be thinking of writing, be sure to make it just a little more metal.

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