Tag Archives: Reviews

Avengers: Endgame takes fans on emotional ride

Story by Eleni Pappas

It is finally here. The end of the road on a long journey spanning over a decade. In the aftermath of Infinity War, the surviving Avengers are left devastated with no hope. Now, the remaining heroes engage in a last-ditch effort to avenge the fallen, entering the final fight for the fate of the universe.

It has been 11 years since the first Iron Man (2008) came out, starting this incredible adventure for Marvel fans all over. Now, finally, Avengers: Endgame has arrived to finish what the cast and creators of Iron Man started all those years ago. Everything until now has been building up to this movie. Released April 25, the theaters flooded with fans, and has the biggest opening weekend ever.

The movie opens up with Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) just before Thanos’ snap, enjoying a day outside with his family. One moment, he is teaching his daughter archery while his wife and sons make hot dogs, and the next everyone but Barton is gone. Turned to dust. At this point, the audience is silent and the mood is somber. Then the scene shifts to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), aboard a spaceship and stranded in space with only Nebula (Karen Gillan) for company. When they run out of resources and all hope seems lost, the one and only Captain Marvel comes to their rescue. Five years later Stark has moved on from the Avengers and everyone has lost all hope of bringing back the fallen. That is until Ant-Man/Scott Lang miraculously returns from the Quantum Realm with an insanely improbable plan that might just work.

For the audience, Endgame is a rollercoaster of emotions, having way more funny moments than anyone could have predicted. Many assumed the film would be dark and tragic, but it is amazing how seamlessly certain scenes went from laugh-inducing to tear-jerking and vice-versa in a matter of minutes. Every Avenger had their share of hilarious and dramatic moments, but overall the film retained a serious tone fitting for what fans are calling the end of an era. By the end of the movie, no one in the audience left the same as they first entered. There was hardly a dry eye in the theater. While the film still left some unanswered questions and audiences are split on whether the ending left them satisfied, altogether many can agree it was as epic a film as expected.

Directed by the Russo Brothers, Joe and Anthony, Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is finally complete with Endgame. For the audience, endings are always sad, but many look forward to the future of Phase 4. Endgame currently in theaters now.

 

The Door to Doom is Now Wide Open

Art by Sam Haney

Story By Daniel Anderson

The nation of Sweden is quite well versed in metal.

From Meshuggah to Opeth, Entombed to Amon Amarth, Bathory to Ghost, metal music has thrived in this country for decades. However mainstream or underground the names may be, the genre has remained popular nonetheless.Yet throughout this country’s layered history in the genre, few Swedish metal bands have ever been as revered as the doom-laden Candlemass.

Forming in 1984 in Stockholm by bassist and sole consistent member Leif Edling, Candlemass embarked on a distinct metal movement during the mid to late 80s, doom metal. It typically is not a very extreme form of the metal genre (some might even call it simplistic), but extremity is not what it needs to focus on. This genre is familiarized by its slow tempo, titanic riffs, and thunderous volume. In doing so, the overall sound produced gives off an ominous presence: one that gives the listener a sense of impending doom (hence the name).

Around the time of the band’s hay day, the genre of doom metal was viewed by many as a bastion of a sound that had been existent since the 70s (thanks to Black Sabbath, of course). Contemporaries such as Trouble, Saint Vitus and Pentagram had jumped onto the bandwagon of Sabbath worship.

Candlemass, however, changed that notion with albums like Epicus Doomicus Metallicus and Nightfall. Instead of the familiar stoner riffs of the decade prior, the band opted for grand production and a dramatic new sound for the genre— vocals and all. They had essentially turned doom metal into opera.

From then on, Candlemass kept turning the wheel for their newly updated genre (which they dubbed “epic doom metal”). Though this did not come without its faults. The band has consistently picked up and dropped its members like jacks, and hiatuses  were certainly not unheard of.

Despite all of that, Candlemass persisted. Time and time again, the band kept releasing albums which mostly garnered warm reception from critics and fans. But after their 2012 release Psalms for the Dead, Candlemass fell silent with their streak of albums.

There was no complete studio silence, though. In that time, they released two EPs, Death Thy Lover and House of Doom. However, with their fifth vocalist, Mats Levén, they lacked the truly operatic voice which had helped give the band its identity.

Once he was outed, the band once again needed someone to take the mantle of vocals. Much to the surprise of their fans, the original vocalist for the band, Johan Länqvist, decided to take on that role once again.

Thus, we now have Candlemass’ twelfth studio album, The Door to Doom. And what an excellent return to form it is.

With so many lineup changes in their discography, one might expect a band such as Candlemass to act dysfunctional, especially considering how long they have been doing this sort of thing.

Yet that is not what is on display here. Straight from the opening track, “Splendor Demon Majesty,” it becomes clear that Candlemass can still offer the devilish and melodic guitar lines, crushing production, and ominous vibes that made them beloved in the first place.

Längqvist’s vocals, while obviously aged, have fared much greater than most other long-running bands. Take the new recording of the track, “House of Doom,” for instance. While the excellent instrumentals have not changed much since last time, the more operatic tone that the vocals on the new version bring forth make the comparison between this and the original version seem like day and night. With one simple change, this band become instantly more recognizable.

The third track, “Astorolus – The Great Octopus” is perhaps the most outstanding example of fresh offerings on this album. While not as occult as many of the other songs in their discography, the Lovecraftian lyrics of an oceanic monstrosity certainly fill in the gap of ever-present evil just perfectly.

But most notable of all, this track features a winding guest guitar solo from the legendary Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. Just knowing that this band has garnered the attention and collaboration of one of heavy metal’s most essential forefathers goes to show how far Candlemass has come since its inception.

However, straightforward doom and gloom is not all that is brought to the table here. There are several moments throughout this album which show that the band also has versatility under its belt. Instances such as the intro to the track, “Under the Ocean,” which has a psychedelic vibe comparable to that of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter.”

That same vibe takes complete control on the fourth track, “Bridge of the Blind.” This track is a nice change of pace, basically acting as an acoustic interlude.

The track “Black Trinity” contains the moment most atypical of this band, however. It starts out with some of the heaviest and most distorted guitar licks on the album, almost like an Electric Wizard track. But then there is an eerie drum break starting around the four-minute mark, including what sounds like a pair of maracas in the background. Needless to say, this moment sticks out like a sore thumb, but in an interesting way.

One more important thing to note about this album is the mixing. Make no mistake, this album is as heavy and hard-hitting as any frequent metal listener would expect. The sheer emphasis on the drums and guitar distortion help this album sound even more monstrous than it already was. It is not exactly as heavy as something like, say, a High on Fire record, but it more than gets the job done.

In essence, The Door to Doom is the album that long time listeners of Candlemass have been craving for years now. It blends the new and the old of the band into a seamless recording. Plus, given that a good majority of the tracks abide by doom metal standards, it also makes for a good album to engage new listeners with.

One thing this album is not, however, is a sequel to their debut, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (despite what some fans claim). Then again, it does not need to be. By now, this band has gone through so many different phases and lineups that making something entirely reminiscent of their earliest works would be futile. Candlemass has remained a surprisingly consistent band when it comes to sound and style, but the subtle changes they have made along the way have kept this band from reaching their permanent expiration date.

Late-career highlights are certainly not unheard of for metal bands, but only a band like Accept can match the consistency that Candlemass has had past their prime. For a band that has been around for 35 years, and with fairly little change to the sound of their repertoire, it is quite amazing that Candlemass can still bring about great albums in this great of a volume.

The Door to Doom is the newest evidence of this claim.

 

Standout Tracks: Under the Ocean, Astorolus – The Great Octopus, Black Trinity, House of Doom

Score: 8.5/10

Kid A inspires listeners almost 20 years after release

By Daniel Anderson

The decade, century, and millennium were all heading to an anticipated closing point. Around the same time, a certain alt-rock band living near Oxford University was becoming increasingly exhausted with their own work. For Radiohead, days were long and tumultuous.

Touring over a year for their groundbreaking third project OK Computer did not exactly help with that, either. This led to lead singer Thom Yorke suffering a near-mental breakdown by the time the tour was over.

But the band knew, much like everyone else, that a year passing is a time for change. And with a once-in-a-lifetime experience such as the beginning of the 21st century, Radiohead knew that their britpop sound of the 90s just could not last. It was time to take a different approach.

The turn of the century had passed, and the effects that britpop bands like Oasis and Blur on music as a whole were fading rapidly. Enter a genre on the rise that would have untold amounts of influence on both Radiohead’s next project and the soundscape of the 21st century itself: electronica. This was the place where Yorke knew to start.

It took quite a bit of effort for him to convince his fellow band members Jonny and Colin Greenwood, Phil Selway, Ed O’Brien, and his producer, Nigel Godrich, of his new vision. But alas, in the midst of autumn in the year 2000, the fourth project of Radiohead’s discography had been unveiled: Kid A.

By this time, Radiohead had learned their lesson about aging in music. So the band made the bold decision of stripping Jonny of his guitar and took the next step into the ice-cold sound that OK Computer had started.

Take the opening track “Everything In Its Right Place” for example. Using only the accompaniment of an electric piano and eerie distortion effects on both the background and Yorke’s signature, nasly vocals ensures the listener of what exactly they are in for.

Even more unsettling is the constant repetition of the track’s title in a relatively monotone fashion. It gives off an immediate sense of Orwellian control, like it is merely an automated response.

Almost every track on this album has a level of production which gives off a looming sense of powerlessness. Track #5, “Treefingers,” is an ambient instrumental track which only uses heavily processed samples of Ed O’ Brien’s guitar to give an ominous yet sedating ambience. It is like an out-of-body experience made sound.

The disjointed transition between this track and the track proceeding it, “Optimistic,” gives an effective wake-up call effect to the listener.

The experimental element of the album is undoubtedly what kept critics and fans of Radiohead’s previous discography divided for some time, but this album does not entirely reside in the electronics department. Track #3, “The National Anthem,” takes both a Talking Heads and jazz-inspired route which includes an instrumental overload near the end, like the sound of someone having a panic attack being translated into a horn section.

Despite this, there are parts in the album that seem to reminisce the melancholic instrumentations that their previous work had hailed. In fact, track #4, “How to Disappear Completely,” could be very well fit on previous efforts such as “The Bends.” It is a seamless contrast opposed to the rambunctious nature of the track prior.

Of course, moments like those could only keep the spotlight on for so long as the band still maintained focus on harnessing their new sound.

Track #8, “Idioteque,” turns the dial up on intensity. It combines an Aphex Twin-esque IDM aesthetic alongside lyrics that seem to convey an apocalyptic situation or a world in panic, “Ice age coming/Ice age coming/ Throw it in the fire/Throw it in the fire.” All of this occurs while still strangely having a pseudo-beat set against it, like a Danse Macabre for the modern age.

The particular 9th track, “Morning Bell” contains varied instrumentation such as the ambient synths similar to that of “Treefingers” mixes in a high-pitched guitar solo,, which oddly doesn’t feel too out of place. This is accompanied with lyrics which give such strange instrumentals the feeling of being in a daze, “Clothes are all over the furniture/Now I might as well/I might as well/Sleepy jack the fire drill/Run around around around around around.”

It is unusual to think that a project like this would not cap off with a track that cultivate so many prior elements of the album such as “Morning Bell.” Rather, the listener is treated to a much more dreary closer on track #10, “Motion Picture Soundtrack.”

At this point, the band has unexpectedly ditched the electronics, as if they were finally released from the technological imprisonment that the album consistently alludes to. Only two instruments are used on this song: a confused yet elegant synth harp section, and a pedal organ. Both of these, combined with Yorke’s most human-esque vocals on the album, leave off on a note of sorrow and ambiguity.

In essence, “Kid A” is a project that, while still having a tremendous influence on artists today (Danny Brown’s “Old” for example), is not really meant for every audience. As clean and haunting as the album sounds, the constant distortion can prove to be difficult to listen to for the impatient. Also, the pretentious reputation that Radiohead has earned among critics and listeners throughout the years because of albums like these does not really help much either.

For as bold of a move as this was for the time, there are certainly moments scattered throughout this album that have not aged so pristinely. The title track, for example, will probably not be seen as the most cutting-edge thing the band has put out. But that is a rather minor fault in comparison with the rest of this absolute monolith.

As for those who do enjoy a more icy and sound, they’ve probably already listened to it more than once. Saying that “Kid A” is a musical gold mine in the 21st century would be a severe understatement.

Verdict

Instrumentals: A-
Production: A+
Vocals/Lyrics: A
Variety: A
Overall Grade: A+

Favorite Track: Idioteque

Least Favorite Track: none

 

‘Rampage’ movie leaves audience with mixed feelings

Art by Shelby Pennington

By Reagan O’Farrell

The theater was eerily quiet as the lights went down. Every other seat was occupied, it seemed, by someone who was apparently curious as to just how good or bad this movie was. People were divided either way — a film with big-time actors and a not-so original plot tended to do that.

Rampage, which was released on April 13, has drawn critics and moviegoers to both sides of the line. It was reminiscent of other films like Godzilla or King Kong but attempted to have its own modern twist, being that one of the “bad guys” was actually kind of a “good guy” — this character being the ape itself, an albino gorilla named George.

Upon watching the trailers, people pretty much knew what to expect from the entire movie. For the most part, at least. It was driven primarily by action and comedy — this comedy being a surprisingly unique mixture of absolute childishness and a target aimed directly at adults. Normally, this really should not work. For some reason, it did. This was one of those movies that was almost stupid-funny, whether or not that was that actual intention of the makers of Rampage.

Without its notable actors, however, this movie likely would have been a bit of a mess. Dwayne Johnson played the main character, Davis Okoye, the primary caregiver and best friend of George. Naomie Harris acted as Dr. Kate Caldwell, one of the lead scientists who had a role in incidentally developing the objects responsible for the mutations of George and two other animals. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, recognized for his recent role as Negan in The Walking Dead, played Harvey Russell, a government agent who initiated the attempted capture of George. These are the three actors who prevented the movie from flopping entirely primarily because, despite their poor scripts, they actually managed to somehow pull off their parts.

The plot of the movie, for the most part, was fairly predictable. A genetic experiment gone wrong ends up affecting a few predator species and it is up to Davis and company to fix it. The corporation responsible for the experimentation, Energyne, is corrupt and wants to make money off the disaster — that is, the mutated animals. CEO Claire Wyden, portrayed by Malin Åkerman, is the cool, collected head behind Energyne in contrast with her brother, Brett — played by Jake Lacy — who is a panicky dimwit. While an interesting dynamic, their parts were not written particularly well and it was impossible to take either of them seriously and see them as the threats they were supposed to be. More-or-less, this was made up for in the true threats presented by the mutated animals.

The music behind the film was in accordance with that of any action movie — loud and boisterous for important fight scenes, suave and dark whenever Claire Wyden began to present another aspect of her evil plan, and the likes. It was blended in well enough to hardly be noticeable, but this seemed to be more of an advantage toward Rampage — had the music been more of a forefront, it would have been just another stereotypical action ploy that would have made even the intense scenes a joke.

Rampage has not been getting the best reviews. Despite this fact, it was actually almost worth seeing. The childishness comedy was practically nostalgia, and the ridiculousness of it all was enough to leave a lasting smile on anyone’s face. The actors may not have been casted in an award-winning film by any means, but it honestly looked like they had fun shooting it. It was genuine as much as being genuine was necessary.

Frankly, Rampage was equal parts good and bad, but these dichotomies tied in pretty well to make a halfway decent movie. Really, it was no surprise that the theater was half-full.

It is worth giving Rampage a chance, if only to satisfy one’s own curiosity. From the raw action to the occasionally ill-placed joke, it is a unique film.

Relevant film captures interest of moviegoers

Art by Tori Roberts

By Reagan O’Farrell

In a world where terrorism seems to have become relatively inevitable, it is not much of a surprise that movies are now being released exemplifying the heroism of those who take action to prevent it. In the most recent case, that movie is The 15:17 to Paris.

The 15:17 to Paris tells the true story about the endeavors three men took to stop a terrorist bent on killing hundreds of helpless citizens as they took the Thalys train connecting Amsterdam to Paris. This movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, has a notable twist, however—the main cast is the heroes themselves.

This film has a running time of an hour and 36 minutes in which the life stories of Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler are told beginning when they are around 11 years old and ending when they receive membership to the Légion d’Honneur.

Overall, The 15:17 to Paris told a great story of heroism from seemingly ordinary people, demonstrating the power of every individual to make a difference in the world. However, going into the theater, one would expect to learn more about the events that transpired that day in August of 2015 when a man entered a heavily-populated train with the intent to kill, or even gain a look into the unique lives of all the people who stopped that man. Frankly, neither of those happened.

The plot—which was, of course, a true story—seemed interesting on the surface, but the only moments where a person could feel like he or she was interacting with the film, almost there, feeling the rush of adrenaline, happened in the span of a brilliantly produced maybe-fifteen minutes. The rest of it was pretty distant.

This may be because the transition from childhood to adulthood is abrupt, awkward, and lacking in explanations. Not to mention, the dialogue among the children is forced—child actors William Jennings, Bryce Geiser, and Paul-Mikél Williams did their best with what they got, but what they got must not have been good enough.

It may also be because of the most infamous detail being the actors actually playing themselves. Their acting, while a good attempt, is not the best. The conversations are not natural—from sports talk to making light of one another or talking about future plans, it is evident they were not trained to do this kind of work. One develops an appreciation of those who act for a living when watching these three make a go. Then again, maybe it is just really hard to act as yourself in a film.

The best scenes in the movie came when the men were acting in behavior seemingly normal to them. In Spencer’s case, this was following orders on a military base, practicing jiu jitsu, and ultimately taking down the terrorist. He seemed to hold the most spotlight, which may be because he is the one who ran down a man in the face of a gun and faced injuries due to his willingness to protect people.

Overall, The 15:17 to Paris shared an excellent story about heroism in the modern world and about the coming-of-age tale of Spencer, Alek, and Anthony. While the production was a bit awkward, the inspiring tale captivates audiences regardless.