MTG Mondays: Vesuva

It is everywhere you’ve ever been.” – Vesuva

Vesuva, home of the shape shifters

Good day to you all, I hope the mana flowed well in your lives this week. Tell me something, student of the arts, do you like Illusionists? I hope you do, because today we will be talking about an isle on Dominaria that is famous for its illusionists, Vesuva.

As I have mentioned, Vesuva is an island nation that is in between the Orvada Empire, a merchant empire that is a rival to Benalia, and Shanodin, home of the dryads. The nation is home to the shape shifters, a race of beings that can change their form into another being, they can become anyone they want and you can only imagine how dangerous a power like that is, in the wrong hands. Another ability that these illusionists have is that they can create a doppelganger of a person, which is basically a clone or copy of a person, but the difference is that the doppelganger has a taste for murder and death.

The Vesuvans were not spared catastrophe though, even with all their wonderful abilities. During the rift era, when all the planes in the Magic universe were affected by temporal rifts and interfering with the natural order of things, Vesuva was absolutely devastated, and the once beautiful and majestic state was reduced to nothing but rubble and death. The strange thing was, the illusion magic held, and the reflection in the water below showed Vesuva as it once stood, proud, strong, mysterious and most importantly…whole.

Vesuva, ruined. Note the water though.

Not much else is known about Vesuva but what is known is quite intriguing. The island nation, rose to greatness again like a Phoenix from the ashes. Where once was ruin and hardship, glorious buildings now stood as a testament to the will of the Vesuvan people. But something else that peaked my interest is its ruler, the Queen of Vesuva. Now I have very little knowledge of the queen herself, but it’s what’s on her head that sparked my interest, The Helm of the Host. This helm is made of a material called Rathi flowstone, but what is so significant about that you ask? Well Rath is the artificial plane that was created by the Phyrexians to stage their invasion of Dominaria, and flowstone is the material that created the plane.

Forged out of flowstone for the queen of Vesuva.” – Helm of the Host

The Queen of Vesuva wearing the Helm of the Host

Now I am no more than a storyteller and a collector of weird and wonderful tales, so I pay very little mind to idle chatter, but the queen wearing a crown made of the material from a race of beings hell bent on destroying every part of Dominaria? My question is, was the queen “gifted” this crown, or was it a spoil of battle?

So that is the history of the people of Vesuva. Not much is known about these people, but if your whole culture is based on illusion and deception, well, they will only show you what they want you to see and nothing more. A proud people that from my experience had to put up with a lot, or as much as most of the people on Dominaria. To me, they look like a nation that will have great days ahead of them and maybe they will. But that is the chapter on Vesuva and I for one hope you enjoyed it.

As always, thank you for reading!

Album Review: Melissa (1983) by Mercyful Fate

Album Cover by Thomas Holm/Studio Dzyan

Band/Artist: Mercyful Fate (Vocals: King Diamond, Lead Guitar: Hank Shermann, Drums: Kim Ruzz, Bass: Timi “Grabber” Hansen, Guitar for ‘Evil’ – Michael Denner)

Album: Melissa (1983)

Genre: Heavy Metal, Black Metal

Label: Roadrunner (Europe), Music for Nations (UK), Megaforce (US)

Hello metal lovers and welcome to another album review. Today we will be talking about the 1983 Heavy/Black metal album Melissa from the band Mercyful Fate. This is the debut album for the Danish heavy metal band who is fronted by legendary singer, King Diamond. Melissa was released the day before Halloween in 1983 and in my opinion that was perfect timing for it to be put out as the album is all about curses, Satan and witches and a persons journey through this mystical evil. One of the songs, ‘Into the Coven’ even made it to the filthy fifteen objectionable songs that parents used to try and set up a Parental Advisory Label in 1985. This is due to the occult lyrics and overall theme to the song. So let us once again ladies and gentlemen dive into another album and see what I think of it.

Evil – This songs bursts through the gates and attacks the senses straight away. The riff is absolutely badass and coupled with King Diamonds incredible Falsetto voice and the awesome drumming from Kim Ruzz, the the song is wholly badass throughout. I know I keep saying badass, but there is no other way to describe how truly kick ass this song is. The lyrics are so gothic and dark and they completely show the genius that is King Diamond. Lastly, the solo guitar work that goes throughout the song is nothing short of incredible. A fantastic song.

Curse of the Pharaohs – A nice, slow opening, it is like the guitar is inviting you in to its domain and then the entire band kicks in and you can’t help but smile. The lyrics are interesting, they are basically about all the bad things that could happen if you steal from a pyramid and get cursed, pretty cool lyrics in my opinion. The song really picks up about half way through (2:08) and sends you on another journey in the land of 80’s bad ass heavy metal and nothing but.

Into the Coven – A beautiful opening to the song from Hank Shermanns amazing guitar work. By the third song on the album you will be able to note Mercyful Fates distinct sound and it just gets better with each track. King Diamond hits notes that pierce your soul and with the reverb on his voice you could imagine him singing in a church, an evil church of course but a church none the less. The lyrics are basically an invite to join a cult or a coven and become a part of Lucifer’s family. I love how dark and mystical Diamond’s lyrics are.

At the Sound of the Demon Bell – Pretty good opening to the song, I feel a bit of influence from US heavy metal groups at the beginning of this song, but once King Diamond screeches out “Halloweeeeeeen” it brings you right back to Mercyful Fate. I would describe this as one of their more innovative and experimental songs on the track. There are a lot of breaks where the guitar switches up and it feels like a mix of songs sometimes. The lyrics of the song are about the night of Halloween and basically how the barrier between our world and the spirit world are broken and how Satan can now get to earth. Fantastic work by the band and an intriguing journey that left me wanting more.

Black Funeral – The shortest song on the album, and lyrically it is basically a Satanist black funeral for a woman who was killed by King Diamonds…or Satan’s coven. Musically its pretty good, but nothing really sticks out for me too much, I think it just sets the scene of a black funeral and how truly evil these people are. It has to be said thought that Shermann’s solo work near the end is incredible.

Satan’s Fall – Now from the shortest song on the album to the longest at eleven and a half minutes. The song starts off like a very typical but very good Mercyful Fate track. The song has sixteen different riffs on it, so to say that this is a journey is an understatement. It feels like a journey through a mind that has been corrupted by evil and all the strange and dark emotions that a mind like that would go through. Later on in the song, it is like the person has accepted that Satan is their true master and that they reject god in all its entirety.

Melissa – For all intents and purposes, I would describe this song as a ballad and even go so far as to say a love song…but it’s still dark as hell. The match up of Diamond’s voice and Shermann’s guitar work is fantastic and it is divine, I literally can’t think of another word other than divine. As far as I can make out, the lyrics are about the characters love, Melissa, who was a witch and I think she was executed for being so and the main character swears revenge for her death.

Final Thoughts:

While the lyrics may seem tame now with all the talk of Satan and hell and evil and they might even be called “edgy” nowadays, this was it. This was the metal album that told you of a persons journey through evil so profound. I truly believe the whole album is one person’s journey, from just being evil, to finding a group of like minded individuals and eventually giving their whole life over to the price of darkness and whether you like it, you are going on that journey and whatever your outcome, well that is up to you.

Musically, the entire album is mind blowing from start to finish. For me this album is way ahead of its time and I can see even nowadays the influence would have on other heavy/black metal bands. This is what talent looks like. The lyrics are genius, the guitar work is unmatched, the drums are rocking…the bass is a bit lost, but from what I can hear of the bass, it is pretty damn good.

This whole album put a smile on my face. It works in so many ways and on so many different levels. Would it be an album that I put on and head bang to? No. This is an album that I would put on, lay on my bed, close my eyes and go on an intense and very real journey through someone’s evil soul and thought process as they give the entirety of their soul to Satan. Melissa is an amazing album and one of the best metal albums of the 1980’s and I would suggest that if you have forty odd minutes and you appreciate not only metal, but encapsulating story telling, then you won’t be disappointed.

Favourite song: Evil

10/10

Warhammer Lore: Space Marines (Adeptus Astartes)

They shall be my finest warriors, these men who give themselves to me. Like clay I shall mould them and in the furnace of war forge them. They will be of iron will and steely muscle. In great armour shall I clad them and with the mightiest guns will they be armed. They will be untouched by plague or disease, no sickness will blight them. They will have tactics, strategies and machines such that no foe can best them in battle. They are my bulwark against the Terror. They are the Defenders of Humanity. They are my Space Marines and they shall know no fear.– The Emperor of Mankind

Hello everybody! Today I will be giving you a very brief history of the Emperor’s finest, his angels of death, his glorious Space Marines. Before we talk about the space marines, we must first talk about why the Emperor needed them.

The Emperor of Mankind

Our tale starts on Terra or Earth in the common tongue. Our planet was a barren wasteland full of death, decay, roving bands of lunatics and genetically mutated freaks. The landscape was ruined by centuries of mass destructive warfare including biological and chemical. These ruthless, savage humans were ruled by warlords known as Technobarbarians. All hope was lost for humanity as it went down into a cesspool of filth and death. But in the darkness, even the smallest light burns bright and with that the Emperor of Mankind appeared with his soldiers, the genetically modified warriors that he dubbed his “Thunder Warriors”.

The Thunder Warriors were extremely tall and stocky soldiers and fought with a ferocity that was never seen before, at least on Terra. The Thunder Warriors cleaved and clawed their way through the Emperor’s enemies and one by one the technobarbarian warlords and their depraved empires fell to the Emperor and his forces. There was a problem though, the Thunder Warriors were a proto type, a precursor to something…better. It was no secret that the Thunder Warriors were suffering from mental instability and often lost control causing a lot of damage and death, this would not do in the Emperor’s Imperium.

Thunder Warrior (Proto Space Marine)

During the final battle for Terra and the last holdout that when taken would secure the Emperor’s dominance of Terra, the Emperor knew what had to be done. The fortress was taken, the planet was won, the war was over. But before cheers could be had, shelling from artillery rained down on the Thunder Warriors, but from who or where? Another enemy? No…from the Emperor’s forces, the Emperor had no more use for his imperfect warriors, so he had them slaughtered to the man.

The Emperor had control of Terra and he had legions of his newly created space marines at his back, the galaxy was his to conquer, there was one problem though. The Emperor’s genetic sons, the Primarchs, commanders of each of the Emperors legions were scattered throughout the galaxy as children by the forces of Chaos. The Emperor needed his sons back to take command of his forces and lead humanity into the golden age that it so rightly deserved and needed. The legions were as follows:

NumberNamePrimarchHome worldAllegiance
IDark AngelsLion El’ JonsonCalibanLoyalist
II[Redacted][Redacted][Redacted][Redacted]
IIIEmperor’s ChildrenFulgrimChemosTraitor
IVIron WarriorsPerturaboOlympiaTraitor
VWhite ScarsJaghatai KhanMundus PlanusLoyalist
VISpace WolvesLeman RussFenrisLoyalist
VIIImperial FistsRogal DornTerraLoyalist
VIIINight LordsKonrad CurzeNostramoTraitor
IXBlood AngelsSanguiniusBaalLoyalist
XIron HandsFerrus ManusMedusaLoyalist
XI[Redacted] [Redacted] [Redacted] [Redacted]
XIIWorld EatersAngronBodtTraitor
XIIIUltramarinesRoboute GuillimanMacraggeLoyalist
XIVDeath GuardMortarianBarbarusTraitor
XVThousand SonsMagnus The RedProsperoTraitor
XVISons of HorusHorus LupercalCthoniaTraitor
XVIIWord BearersLorgarColchisTraitor
XVIIISalamandersVulcanNocterneLoyalist
XIXRaven GuardCorvus CoraxDeliveranceLoyalist
XXAlpha LegionAlpharius OmegonUnknownTraitor
The names of the original Legions of the Emperor. II and XI never existed and we shall never utter a thing about them.

The reason I have an allegiance column in my table, I will get to shortly. The Emperor went around conquering the stars, slaughtering xenos scum and humans that would not conform with the Imperium alike. The Emperor completely outlawed religion and tried to stamp it out wherever he could. The Emperor found all of his children and most of the time it was a joyous occasion to reunite the primarchs with their legion. The Emperor had to go back to Terra to work on a project and left his favoured son in charge of the entire campaign, Horus Lupercal.

Horus Lupercal or Warmaster Horus as he was then called commanded his army through strength and discipline and with that he was highly respected amongst his peers. He conquered many planets in his fathers name and in the name of the Imperium. On one such invasion, Horus was severely injured and many thought he would die. While he was unconscious, the forces of chaos corrupted him from the inside and made him turn from the Emperor’s light. Horus survived, to the relief and praise of many, but this was to be the downfall of everything.

Horus had convinced eight of his primarch brothers to fall to the corruption of chaos and they brought their legions down with them. Suddenly the Imperium was torn apart and for seven standard years, brother fought against brother in the civil war that almost destroyed the entire Imperium. Space Marines were know killing and tearing each other apart. Whole fleets, planets and armies were wiped out as Horus made his way to Terra, which he did. The Siege of Terra was the last stand of the Imperium’s forces against Horus and commanding the defence force was Rogal Dorn of the Imperial Fists. Seas of blood was spilled on Terra but with the death of Horus Lupercal at the hands of the Emperor, the chaos forces retreated. The Emperor was mortally wounded and was placed upon a life support system called the Golden Throne, where the Emperor still sits ten thousand years later.

A battle during the Siege of Terra

Because of the viciousness of the Horus Heresy and how close the Imperium was to being destroyed, the primarch of the Ultramarines, Guilliman wrote a book called the ‘Codex Astartes’. This was to be how every space marine would live their life now and the code and rules they would have to follow. Also the legions were split down to chapters of around a thousand marines each. This means that if some chapters did fall to chaos, it is only a thousand marines at most and not hundreds of thousands.

The Astartes continued on their crusades, but now they were severely weakened. The golden age of humanity was over and religion started to become the main focus of the Imperium and people started to revere the Emperor as a god, which is completely against what the Emperor tried to do. Some space marine chapters like the Black Templars, supported this, even to the point of zealousness where if you speak the Emperor’s name is any fashion that is not respectful, you will die. Some space marine chapters didn’t believe in the godly nature of the Emperor at all which created conflict. Instead of having eighteen legions with varying ideologies, beliefs and creeds, now you had thousands of chapters that believed themselves and their beliefs to the be the best and that sometimes got into full blown civil wars because of their beliefs.

The chapter in formation

The space marines were still the elite soldiers of the Imperium and they were very rarely seen by human eyes. If space marines were called into a conflict, it is because they were needed and if space marines were needed then the planet is in very bad way anyway. With their holy bolters and revving chainswords, the space marines fight with such hunger that is rarely seen in other forces. They will not die, they will not stop, until every single enemy soldier is blasted open from a bolter round or cleaved in half from a biting chainsword. With their superhuman strength, resilience, knowledge and ferocity, some space marines saw themselves as not exactly human anymore. This disconnect was dangerous as some space marines did not care about human casualties, even to the point of wiping out entire planets of innocent humans just to hurt the enemy. In saying that, this is not all chapters, some like the Salamanders, value human life even above their own sometimes and will actively defend humans until the last marine.

The space marines of the Imperium still serve humanity to this day and drive back any and all threats that seek to destroy, enslave or otherwise harm humanity. They are our shining stars in the void of space and truly are the angels of death. A space marine will not stop until every xenos is dead, every threat eliminated and that humanity has the dominance and peace that it so rightly deserves in this age of destruction. With the space marines holding the enemies from our gates, humanity will persevere, we will thrive and we will hold the universe in our dominion, as it is written in the stars by the God-Emperor of Mankind.

So I will say to you adept, give thanks to our angels of death, for without them the Imperium would be nothing. Avert your eyes if a space marine is present as you are not worthy to gaze upon the majesty of the Emperor’s sons. Pray to the God-Emperor that every xenos slaughtered is another step towards our final goal. And if necessary lay down your life for the glory of the Imperium, for your life means nothing as it is forfeit to the Emperor and his will alone.

For the glory of the Imperium!

I hope you enjoyed my writing, and as always, thanks for reading.

MTG Mondays: Verdura

Each spell has its own song, and the enchantress knows the dance for each.” – Verduran Enchantress

Verduran Enchantress by Rob Alexander

May the flow of mana grant you vast bounties, friends. Good morning and welcome to yet another chapter in the history of Magic and the cultures, races and peoples that call the vast universe their home. Today we will be talking about Verdura, a beautiful and lush island on the plane of Dominaria where spell casters are plentiful.

The island of Verdura is covered in woodlands and forests as far as the eye can see, but while these forests and green areas way look wondrous and inviting, there are dangers that lurk deep in the woods. The people of Verdura are not ones to be trifled with, during my studies, I have noticed how protective they are of their lands and how fiercely they will protect what they hold dear. The people that called Verdura their home are known as Verdurans and the quirky thing about the Verdurans is that it is an extremely matriarchal society.

The females of Verduran society are known as Verduran Enchantresses, powerful magic wielders in the areas of enchantment and transformative magic. These enchantresses live well away from any male Verdurans and they are part of their own separate order. The females of Verduran society worship an entity simply known as the Avatar of Verdura, a goddess of extreme power who only divulges her name to those within the Verduran order.

Because the Verdurans are so skilled in what they do, they are highly sought after to join adventuring parties, royal courts, armies and other outfits and the Verdurans seem to have no problem hiring themselves out as mercenaries…as long as the price is right. The Verduran famously do not want gold or riches as payment, they want one of two things, either paid in land or paid in holdings. But for what they can do and the level of skill these enchantresses have, I would still put forward that a bit of land is cheap payment for the benefits one of these enchantresses would have on your party.

Verduran society seems to not look kindly on two things in particular, males and people who come looking for violence and slaughter. Males in Verduran society are treated with no respect and are sent to live in their own village on the northern coasts of Verdura. They are explicitly forbidden from travelling inland to the forests and to the dwellings of the females and if they break this rule, there is only one outcome…death.

So that is the story of the Verdura and the enchantresses that call the island their home. It is for me, equal parts beautiful and dangerous, though on my travels there, I did not get to see much of the island under the pain of death, which isn’t for me. The highly skilled enchantresses are a force that are not to be reckoned with and in my personal use of them in my green enchantment decks, they have been beneficial in giving me the power I need to drive back any planeswalkers that dare threaten me, though my abundance of lands and holdings are starting to run dry from compensating them so much for their services.

I hope you enjoyed this chapter in my vast tome and I hope to see you next time to hear another riveting tale of the wonder that is Magic the Gathering. Go now and conquer all that is before you and be the best you can be.

I hope you enjoyed my writing and as always, thank you for reading!

“Kill ‘Em All” (1983) By Metallica

Awesome cover art. Simple but effective. By Gary L. Heard

Band/Artist: Metallica (Vocals/Rhythm Guitar: James Hetfield, Lead Guitar: Kirk Hammett, Drums: Lars Ulrich, Bass: Cliff Burton)

Album: Kill ’em All (1983)

Genre: Thrash Metal

Label: Megaforce

Hello metal heads! Welcome to another album review. Today we will be talking about one of the most iconic thrash albums ever from one of the most iconic metal bands ever, Kill ’em All by Metallica. Kill ’em All came out in 1983 and it was around that time that thrash metal started to become popular. Dave Mustaine of the band, Megadeth was a member of Metallica during the recording of this album and it was during this period that he was booted from the band to be replaced by Kirk Hammett. Though he was fired, Mustaine still has some writing credits on the album, on songs such as ‘The Four Horsemen’, ‘Jump in the Fire’, ‘Phantom Lord’ and ‘Metal Militia’, The original title of this album was meant to be ‘Metal up your ass’, the record company wanted to change it as they deemed it too offensive. So let us get into this album and see what I think of the songs.

Hit the lights – If I had to pick one word to describe this song it would be “explosive”. From the insane chaotic build up to erupting into this amazing thrash riff, this is pure thrash as it is. The song is all about being at a metal concert and rocking your little heart out. Right from the beginning and the incredible fading in intro, you just know this song is going to rock your socks off. The drums burst onto the scene and if you’re not head banging, there is something wrong with you. I remember hearing this song first when I was in my early teens, I went to my local CD shop and bought this album, I ran home, put this album on and ‘Hit the Lights’ hit me full on. I think I played that song on repeat for the rest of the night before I played the rest of the album. The solo’s are fantastic and you can feel the intensity and excitement from each of the band members through your speakers. A fantastic song and one of my personal favourite thrash songs.

The Four Horsemen – I love how scratchy and dirty the guitar sounds in this song. The melodic riff really adds a lot to this song. This is more your standard heavy metal and what Metallica would be known for in their later years. Hammett’s guitar playing is so on point, the talent just oozes out of this song. I love the drum beat, especially from the kick pedals. About halfway through, it’s like the song transforms into this completely different song, but in no way any less great. The guitar work is beautiful and my word the solo work on the guitar is so god damn good, also the bass is a lot more prominent. A fantastic song throughout.

Motorbreath – The beat of the song is very standard thrash, nothing really stands out to me too much in this song. I am not saying it is not good, far from it, it is a fantastic thrash song, but it wouldn’t be one that I listen to a lot. The things I can compliment are the guitar work is again absolutely fantastic, James Hetfield’s vocals are superb, the guitar solo is once again absolutely on point. Just as a whole, the song doesn’t really stand out, but if it did come on I would still be rocking out to it. A good song.

Jump in the Fire – A stunning main riff to this song that while it may sound simplistic enough, adds so many layers to this song. The reason this song really appeals to me is because it sounds so ahead of its time. The guitar work sticks out so much on this song and it is one of those songs that to me helped mold Metallica’s distinct style and sound. This could have easily been on Master or Justice and I would have been happy with either. The song sounds so raw and energetic, it is a journey from start to finish. One of the best songs on the album for me.

[Anesthesia] Pulling Teeth – This is an instrumental song which I believe would have been very risky for a thrash metal band, not only that, a thrash metal bands debut album. The song is a bass instrumental for the most part, played by one of the greatest metal bass players ever, Cliff Burton. The melodies created from the distorted bass can bring you on a journey in your mind if you just close your eyes and listen to the melody. A beautiful piece of music, though a strange choice for the band to put this on the album. It also shows how very talented Mr. Burton was with his bass guitar. Excellent piece of music.

Whiplash – I like how in Whiplash, the song allows the drums to be the centre stage in this song. It really shows the talent of Lars Ulrich as I feel he is the star of this song. The scratchy guitar makes me want clench my teeth and air guitar to the high heavens and back. A pure unadulterated thrash song. ‘Nuff said really.

Phantom Lord – This song immediately sets the scene with this strange almost sci-fi opening, before it breaks into an absolutely, devil-horn hand waving, pounding, metal song. The guitar work is again the shining star of this song. Kirk Hammett played his heart out on this record and it enjoyable from beginning to end. Also from 2:30-3:21, that is Metallica, that is Metallica’s sound that will bring them the fame and riches that they so rightly deserve in their later years. Phantom Lord is one of the best, creative and melodic songs on the album and is one of my favourite.

No Remorse – Any Doom fans in the house? You might recognise this song (1:34). Kirk Hammett absolutely shreds his guitar in this song, I have no idea how any of his guitars survived the recording of this album. The song changes up so much that it is almost like three songs merged into one and I for one am not complaining. Ulrich’s drumming is excellent in this song. A great song, but sounds more like a compilation of ideas and songs more than one complete song.

Seek and Destroy – Probably the most well known song off this album. It is very different to the rest of the album in the way that it slows the whole album down in my opinion. But this song fucking rocks, absolutely no doubt. Every single element works in this song and it is impossible not to sing the chorus. The lyrics are crisp, clean and badass. The riff is one of Metallica’s most well known and this is one of Metallica’s most popular songs and one that they play constantly at concerts, but it is not hard to see why. It is six minutes and fifty four seconds of pure heavy metal. One of the best Metallica songs period.

Metal Militia – Now if you want to hear a badass thrash metal song from start to finish then please go no further. Metal Militia is one of the most raw thrash songs I have ever heard in my life. When I heard this first I almost gave myself…whiplash…see what I done there because they have a song called Whiplash on the album and also I head banged so hard I almost gave myself whiplash…d-do…do you see?….nevermind. One of the best thrash songs I have ever had the pleasure to listen to. I would definitely rank it as one of the top ten metal songs I have ever heard. Please, if you are in any way into Metal, give it a listen, I don’t think you would be disappointed. Also as a final note, I do love the song fading out in the outro and sound of an army marching fading in, a nice touch and I very much valued that.

Final Thoughts:

For a debut album for one of the biggest heavy metal bands that has ever existed, you could see why Metallica got to the heights they did from this album alone. From the excellent lyrics and singing of James Hetfield, the exciting drums of Lars Ulrich, the rhythmic and imaginative bass lines from Cliff Burton and finally and probably the most stand out member on this album, the beautiful, melodic and creative guitar riffs and solo work by Kirk Hammett, there was just so much talent on this album for it to not become a hit. You can’t talk about Kill ’em All without mentioning Dave Mustaine and I for one can definitely see his influences on the songs that he helped write. Even though Kill ’em All is primarily a thrash album it is so much more technical, diverse and creative then I think it gets credit for. If someone hears that it is a thrash album the first idea that would come to your head and even mine is shredding guitars and fast drums, and while this album does have that, I never in my life would have expected to hear a song devoted to just a bass solo. A risky album, in some ways, but nevertheless, one of the most important and influential metal albums ever recorded.

Favourite Song: Metal Militia

9/10

MTG Mondays: Shiv

“Shiv is a restless land. It heaves ash, bleeds lava, and scabs over in black obsidian.” – Seismic Shift

Shiv

Greetings Planeswalkers from near and far and welcome to the tale that I will spin you today. Shiv is a region in the lands of Dominaria. It is noted as being the most prominent source of red mana in all of Dominaria. It sits away from most other lands, out on it’s own beyond the great ocean. Because of the volume of volcanoes the waters around Shiv are at an almost constant boiling point. In the region there are a race known as Viashino, they are lizard-men for all intents and purposes and they are native to Shiv. These cunning little creatures figured out how to navigate these hostile and dangerous waters and make it out to the rest of the world but they keep their ways secret, much to the annoyance of the other people and races of Shiv.

Viashino

Apart from the Viashino there are goblin tribes, ferocious dragons and even tribes of humans known as the Ghitu. According to the Ghitu, the lands of Shiv came from an egg and that the land hardened through the fires of the volcanoes and with the eruptions of the volcanoes it shed more and more of the land until it became what is now Shiv. The Ghitu believe that the races were created from the elements of the land. They believe that they themselves were born of the fire of the volcano, the dragons were born of the air and that the Viashino were born of the earth.

Shivan inhabitants are hardened to fire, so their predators have developed alternative weaponry.” – Electryte

In the earliest days of Shiv’s civilization their lands were being exploited by the Thran Empire for the vast amount of mana that was on Shiv. The Thran Empire was a massive empire that incorporated eight city states and was extremely powerful. The Thran Empire eventually collapsed in no small part because of the Phyrexian Invasion and a civil war that broke out between those who were loyal to the Phyrexians and those that weren’t. The Thran Empire was eventually torn asunder and scattered, though their infrastructure was left behind including the mana rig, a massive structure that was used to mine the mana. The operators of the rig, being goblins who were descended from the original operators forgot how to use the rig for its actual purpose, but the goblins made a religion around the rig.

While the Phyrexian Invasion was still ravaging the lands of Dominaria, Urza, a great and powerful planeswalker was studying in a region known as Tolaria. While there, he noticed an amulet that one of his students carried. The amulet was made of Thran-Steel and the bearer was an artificer of the Ghitu named Jhoira. Urza travelled to Shiv to find out more about the origins of the amulet and the lands that created it. When he arrived, Urza went to the Viashino and eventually gained their trust and lived with them while he was on Shiv. Urza also convinced the goblin tribes to ally with the Viashino against the Phyrexian hordes that would soon be slaughtering the inhabitants of Shiv. There was one more entity that Urza had to talk too, Gherridarigaaz, who was a great and powerful dragon and the mother of Rhammidarigaaz, the future dragon leader of the Dragon Nations. With the Viashino, goblins, Ghitu and Gherridarigaaz on his side, Urza had a pretty impressive alliance at his back.

Jhoira

The Phyrexians came and they bore savage weapons and the will to fight. Jhoira, Urza’s student used the mana rig from the Thran Empire against the Phyrexians but even with the warriors, mana and powerful spell casters, Shiv seemed to be losing, badly. Teferi, another planeswalker and friend of Urza decided that it would be best to flee than to die, so using his powers, Teferi used magic called phasing, which in basic terms means phasing out of existence, to phase most of Shiv, the mana rig and Jhoira out of harms way. Eventually Phyrexia was pushed back through the various efforts of all the armies on Dominaria and the Phyrexians were destroyed, but not before leaving Dominaria utterly devastated and the same could be said about Shiv. Apart from the rampant destruction on Shiv, there was also a drought of mana caused by the time rifts. Shiv was truly on the brink of extinction. But a small glimmer of hope appeared after Teferi returned and phased back into existence the mana rig, Jhoria and the rest of Shiv, and his cost? The spark that made him a planeswalker.

Moggs, which were goblins from the artificially created plane of Rath, used by the Phyrexians to stage their invasion of Dominaria settled on Shiv and in turn altered the native goblins of Shiv and created some evolutionary changes to the Shivan goblins. Because of the Phyrexian Invasion, the dragons were all but wiped out on Shiv and the Viashino population took a massive hit. This left the goblins and the Ghitu as the dominant species on Shiv and they did not get on. A conflict broke out between both races. The main thing that both races were fighting about was who gets to control the mana rig. Before they destroyed each other, Jhoira stepped in and brokered a peace between the two races. Jhoira then went on to repair the rig and it began to produce mana and Thran steel again, to the joy of the people of Shiv.

Mogg Goblins

So what is Shiv like nowadays? Not much had changed, but the people of Shiv wanted Jhoira to be their leader as she was respected by all of the races on Shiv. Jhoira was uncomfortable with this and she decided that Shiv should be ruled equally by all of the native races. Jhoira, along with some help was a key factor in setting up the Shivan Nation and united all the races into a council. The council was to have eight members, two elders from each race and Jhoira would be an honorary ninth member of the council. Hopefully this will keep the peace in the otherwise violent and volcanic region.

“The blood of your ancestors ran heavy on this soil. Now it’s your turn to sacrifice for the glory of Shiv.”Shivan Harvest

So, that was the story of Shiv. One of savagery, unity, bloodshed and heartache. Shiv had everything set against it. A barren wasteland, races that didn’t get on, constant civil wars, drought, exploitation and brought to the point of near extinction and to not only come out of that surviving, but thriving and in a union, well, I don’t think anyone would have thought that Shiv was even capable of such feats. I hope the story of Shiv continues on and that this fragile unity may last. But this is Magic the Gathering, you never know what may be around the corner.

I hope you all enjoyed my writing, and as always, thank you for reading!

Album Review: “The Last Temptation of Reid” (1990) by Lard

Album Cover

Band/Artist: Lard (Vocals: Jello Biafra, Guitar/Programming: Alien Jourgensen, Drums: Jeff Ward, Bass/Programming: Paul Barker)

Album: The Last Temptation of Reid (1990)

Genre: Industrial Rock/Hardcore Punk

Label: Alternative Tentacles

Hello fellow music lovers and welcome to my review of the 1990 rock album “The Last Temptation of Reid” from industrial punk rockers Lard. This album is the debut studio album from Lard. Lard were a San Francisco hardcore/industrial punk band made up of members from Ministry and the Dead Kennedys, most notably the lead singers of both bands, Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) and Al Jourgensen (Ministry). The album definitely has a lot of elements of punk rock but there is a small element of industrial too which isn’t surprising given the talent that is in the band. I would also like to note that I think the album cover is awesome, I like the imagery of innocence being eaten by steel and metal. So let’s go through the songs and I’ll tell you what I think of each of them:

Forkboy – What an amazing start to this album. This song immediately hit me like a ton of bricks. The bass opening just before the rest of the instruments kick in really builds up the anticipation that this will be a special song. Biafra’s singing in this song is some of his best that I have ever heard from him. I would pick out one instrument that sticks out, but they are all equally as good and they each play their part to make this song absolutely rock! The lyrics are really cool and paint a grim picture. This song was used in the 1994 Oliver Stone movie “Natural Born Killers” and it really adds to the scene it is played in. A fantastic song, one that I play a lot in my personal play lists.

Pineapple Face – Drums! Drums! Drums! Once that drum kicks in at beginning, it is hard to not already be head banging. The riff is pretty awesome and then it breaks down to a slow moment which has some strange singing and and a cool piece from a keyboard before kicking in again. Like Forkboy, a straight up, cool rock song and one that I thoroughly enjoy. I believe that Pineapple Face is in reference to the Panamanian Dictator, Manuel Noriega as he was derogatorily known as Cara de Pina, or Pineapple Face.

Mate, Spawn & Die – This is the first song of the album that I can clearly hear influence of the Industrial genre through the drums. The riff of the song to me sounds strangely like the Dead Kennedys song “Holiday in Cambodia”. That’s not to say its bad, it just sounds a little too similar. The lyrics are pretty good, to me it seems to be people giving everything they have to find the easy answers in life. Look good and you’ll get what you want, find love and you’ll get what you want but in this strive to get what you want in life, what do you sacrifice along the way? And then the easiest answer of all, you mate, have children and die, probably the basest function of any and every living thing on the planet. A very good song and different, which I like.

Drug Raid At 4AM – You can certainly hear the Ministry influence in this song, using sound bites from news reports, police shows on TV and the like. The background police sirens are a really cool addition to this song. This song is mostly punk and the drums and guitar work really well together to make it a really awesome punk song. What I get from the lyrics is that it is an anti-war on drugs song and that the government waste too much time and resources on it. Also they bring up the fact that the government wastes resources treating addicts like criminals instead of someone who needs help to kick the habit. A pretty good song and a nice mix of Ministry and Dead Kennedys.

Can God Fill Teeth? – The song is really crazy, but in a good way, it starts off like a story with a little bit of guitar work in the background. This goes on for almost half of the song before the actual song kicks in and when it does it is fast, heavy and hard like all good punk songs should be. Basically the lyrics of the song, from what I can make out, is the ravings of a conspiracy nut and how far he is willing to go so the government don’t control any aspect of his life, he even drills out his own teeth because he thinks the government can listen to him through a bug in his teeth from a filling. Pretty crazy stuff, but to be fair, if you ever listened to this guys for longer than five minutes…you could see one or two of them doing the same. A decent song, not great. Pretty humourous lyrics though I have to say.

Sylvestre Matuschka – This song gets straight into it, rocking pretty hard from the get go. The song is about a Hungarian mass murderer named Sylvestre Matuschka. Matuschka used to blow up train tracks so he could derail the trains in Austria and Hungary in the 1930’s. He was twice successful causing death and injuries and twice he failed. He was captured and extradited to Hungary where he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Matuschka escaped and was never heard from again. Why did he do it? Some say god told him, others say for sexual gratification. Back to the song, its pretty rocking. The bass line is excellent and I love the drumming throughout. Biafra’s wailing way of singing really adds to the song. The song had me head banging, but not the most technical song I have ever heard. A good song.

They’re Coming To Take Me Away – The song starts off with a nice harp and an excellent marching drum beat. The song was originally recorded by American singer and song writer Napoleon XIV back in 1966. Biafra’s vocals are very similar to the original. The song is basically about someone losing their mind after losing their…dog…and being committed to a mental asylum, but the way Biafra sings has this insane quality to it which is both cool and disturbing. The distortion of the instruments really play into the distorted and warped nature of the song. A pretty good song.

I Am Your Clock – This is less of a song and more of a speech. Biafra does very little singing in this fifteen minute song, more talking/shouting than anything. In saying that, the drums and the guitar work really hit hard in this song as the background to Biafra’s speech. The lyrics are basically, in the simplest form, do what you’re told, don’t dream or imagine a better life, don’t hope for anything, don’t try because you’ll fail, but it is all spoken from a sort of authoritarian angle and it is like the listener is being shouted at and scolded. Lyrically it is a brilliant song and I’d say if you have fifteen minutes to spare, just sit down and listen to this song and do nothing else. Lastly, there are moments in it that have a weirdly played piano and very subtle singing, but the lyrics are equally relevant. An excellent song to finish on.

Final Thoughts:

This is an excellent album in a lot of ways, but my one gripe with it and it is a small gripe, who is this album marketed to? I like punk rock, I like industrial. I like Ministry and I like the Dead Kennedys. But if you’re into industrial only and not punk, you’re going to have a bad time. I failed to see where the industrial influences came into the album. Oh sure there were small bits here and there, but not enough. I would say this is an excellent punk album and leave it at that. The lyrics were well written and thought invoking. The music was pretty good, but I feel that Jello Biafra stole the show with the singing. As I said an excellent album in a lot of ways and one I very much enjoyed listening to.

Favourite song: Forkboy

8/10

MTG Mondays: Shanodin

Moving without sound, swift figures pass through branches and undergrowth completely unhindered. One with the trees around them, the dryads of Shanodin Forest are seen only when they wish to be.” – Shanodin Dryads

Shanodin Dryads

My fellow Planeswalkers, I bid you greetings. I hope the pools of mana have been bountiful to you in the past week. Today we will be talking about the forested region known as, Shanodin. The forest is on an island in an area of Dominaria know as the The Domains.

The main inhabitants of Shanodin are the Dryad. a Dryad is a spirit of the trees. They are usually depicted as having some aspects of a tree such as branches growing out of their body or maybe bark as part of their skin. There are many different types of Dryads in Dominaria. Little is known about Shanodin as there are very few people who actually visited the area and of those who survived, no one will speak about what they witnessed inside.

The main draw to Shanodin is the Heart of Shanodin which is located in the centre of Shanodin. The Heart of Shanodin lies upon a clearing and it is surrounded by walls of brambles and Dryads. The power of the Heart is that it can apparently show someone their true inner self. A ruthless and tyrannical king named Amjad brings any who wish to serve him into the Heart of Shanodin so he can see what is their true inner self. It is there that he makes his decision on whether they will serve him or not.

Apart from that, that is really all that is know about Shanodin. An extremely short one this week, but it is fascinating to learn all the stories in the Magic universe, long or short, big or small. I doubt they will return to Shanodin anytime soon as they only ever released one card referencing Shanodin, but it would be very interesting to return to that place and discover what is so horrifying about it that no one with utter a word about what they have seen inside.

I hope you enjoyed and as always, thanks for reading!

Album Review: “The Art of Partying” (2007) by Municipal Waste

Band/Artist: Municipal Waste (Vocals: Tony “Guardrail” Foresta, Guitar/Vocals: Ryan Waste, Drums: Dave Witte, Bass/Vocals: Philip “Landphil” Hall)

Album: The Art of Partying (2007)

Genre: Crossover Thrash

Label: Earache Records

Hello rockers and metal heads, today I will be reviewing the 2007 album “The Art of Partying” by the thrash metal band, Municipal Waste. This is the third studio album from the Virginian band. The album is quite aggressive and short but it really goes for it and uses the time it has wisely. So let us get into this extravaganza!

Pre-Game – An instrumental start to the album, but one that slaps you in the face…hard. The song only lasts around 40 seconds but it really sets up what is to come.

The Art of Partying – Raw and very powerful, I really like the guitar work and the drums are pretty awesome. This song had me hand banging all the way through. I like the little “breaks” it takes throughout that lets the bass has it’s time. A very good song.

Headbanger Face Rip – Another fast, hard hitting song. A little too messy for my liking, it just feels there is a bit too much going on at once to really appreciate it as a whole. But I will say it does have a very cool slow part near the end. It is an okay song.

Mental Shock – Good guitar riff, the drums really compliment the singing, they both seem to work off the same beat. The guitar work later on is excellent and it allows the song to have a breather. A very good song.

A.D.D (Attention Deficit Destroyer) – Great intro with just the bass and drums, I really liked that. The bass is very prevalent in this track and I am enjoying it immensely. The singing is pretty on point and gritty. One of the most enjoyable songs on the track.

The Inebriator – Asskicking intro in the beginning and then it really starts to rock hard. The guitar is dirty and gritty in this and I love it.

Lunch Hall Food Brawl – Just a straight up thrashy song, nothing special or exciting about it, though the chorus is pretty cool and I enjoyed the mini solo throughout. An okay song.

Beer Pressure – Cool intro, the singing is strange in it but I like it. Again quite typical, though an awesome intro and the solo is pretty cool. I loved the outro. Another okay song.

Chemically Altered – Excellent intro that again gives the drums and bass time to do their work which I really appreciate. I love the rhythm in this song. A very good song.

Sadistic Magician – I love the intro to this song. I think the rhythm throughout is awesome and it isn’t over the top. It gives itself a chance to be able to appreciate all aspects of the song from the singing to the excellent bass, drums and fantastic guitar work. An excellent song!

Open Your Mind – Another cool opening and a slower start which I appreciate before it becomes sort of typical again. Though the guitar work really stands out to me in this song.

Radioactive Force – Again very typical, nothing really stands out to me in this song. An okay song

Septic Detonation – The drums are really hard hitting in this song. I love the partnership of the bass and drums yet again. It really shows the importance of that background rhythm. A good song.

Rigorous Vengeance – Nothing really stands out to me in this song, it is okay but nothing really stands out. The guitar work is pretty good I suppose, but otherwise there is nothing really that grips me.

Born to Party – A cool intro. I think the lyrics are pretty humourous and that it is a bit different. I liked it.

Final Thoughts:

A pretty good album, but not one I would listen to all the time. I would have to be really in the mood to head bang to put on this album. In saying that, I think musically the band is very talented and I love how it allowed all instruments to have their say at certain parts of their songs. The singing was okay but sometimes it just turns into a bit of a verbal mess and it just comes out at a million words a minute and while sometimes I enjoy that, other times I just want the singer to slow down a bit. I’ll put it to you this way, apart from certain areas, I have no idea what the singer was going on about. A pretty good album as I said, but one I would definitely have to be in the mood for, I wouldn’t be able to listen to this casually.

Favourite Song: Sadistic Magician

7/10

Pokémon White (2010, Nintendo DS)

Cover Art

Pokemon White for the DS review, I choose you! Pokemon White, like most Pokemon games is an RPG game set in the wonderful world of Pokemon. Your goal? To become the Pokemon Master by capturing and training your Pokemon companions to become the best they can be through Pokemon battles. If you lived under a rock for the last twenty five years and you do not know what a Pokemon is then I will explain. A Pokemon is a creature that is powered by some type of element whether it’d be fire, water, psychic, dark powers etc. People who catch these Pokemon are called trainers and they usually capture Pokemon to be their companions for life, like pets, except some of these “pets” have the power to level towns. Pokemon White was developed by Game Freak and published by the Pokemon Company and Nintendo.

Prepare for trouble…

Plot:

In Pokemon White, as in all Pokemon games, you play a generic teenager who is about to set out on their own journey throughout the region of Unova, one of the many regions in the Pokemon world. During their journey they will capture, train and form friendships with their new Pokemon. Luckily for them, they aren’t starting out alone as their friends Bianca and Cheren will go on the journey with them, though they go their own way and show up at various points in the story. The main antagonist is a man simply named N, who leads a group called Team Plasma. Team Plasma’s goal apart from world domination are to separate the Pokemon from their trainers as they believe that humanity enslaves Pokemon. N, believes he is the hero that will lead humanity into a new golden age.

During the game while collecting Pokemon and battling Pokemon gym leaders, basically boss battles, the player will come across N and other variants of Team Plasma. The player eventually beats all the gym leaders and takes out the Elite four, basically stronger boss battles. The player encounters N who has captured a legendary Pokemon. N and the player have an epic battle after which N is defeated. N starts to question if he was right about everything until another man named Ghetsis who has been lurking around the whole time, rears his ugly head and tells N that he was using him to separate people from their Pokemon so he can eventually take control of Team Plasma and then the world. The player beats Ghetsis and in turn Ghetsis is arrested. N and the player leave on good terms and all is right with the world again. THE END.

So lets get into what I thought about it:

The nice thing about the Pokemon main series games is that once you’ve played one, you have played them all. Well it is nice and not so nice, I mean in one hand I can pick up any Pokemon main series game and I know exactly how it is going to play out and I know what to do in the game which has a sense of comfort to it, you know what to expect. On the other hand, the formula hasn’t changed since the release of Pokemon Red/Blue back in 1996 on the Gameboy. The gameplay is your pretty traditional Japanese turned based RPG similar to the likes of Final Fantasy, except you have a roster of over 150 different Pokemon of varying elements and powers. The Pokemon battles themselves can be quite tactical as you have to know what element is weak/strong against another, when to use certain attacks and should you spend your turn to attack and try and take out the other Pokemon or heal your Pokemon so it can live another round.

Going into a new area was always very exciting to me because I wanted to see what wondrous Pokemon were on offer in each area. This is the closest I ever got to having Pokemon in real life! The battles themselves are pretty good and as I said they keep you interested because you never know what the other trainers will have at their disposal. An extremely fun and varied game, though at this point the Pokemon games are basically paint by numbers.

In terms of the graphics on the DS? Superb, honestly I never thought a game could look so good on a DS. The graphics and images are vibrant, colourful and engaging and it really makes the region of Unova pop as you are walking around it. I love when the game tried to go into a sort of 3-D setting, it really stood out for me just how pretty everything was. The character models were on point and the Pokemon went from looking cute to ferocious. The battle animations were absolutely amazing and it made the battles very exciting to participate in, especially when you got to the higher level attacks that could really pack a punch.

In terms of the sounds and music of the game. The sounds of the world were fine, doors opening and closing, rocks falling that type of stuff, everything was good. In terms of the Pokemon sounds, they were amazing! Every Pokemon has their own distinct sound and you could tell that throughout the game. Along with the battle animations, the sounds really added to the overall epic effect the battles were having on me. The soundtrack was phenomenal, definitely one of my favourite Pokemon soundtracks. The game had its nice ambient soundtracks to epic battle music. Two of my favourite tracks were the Elite four theme and N theme, I really felt the heavy pounding and influences from Electronic Dance Music really helped with how epic the battle music was.

The story of the game was decent. I do have to say it was fresh seeing an “evil” Pokemon trainer having goals other than taking over the world. It was interesting that it brought up the points of: Should Pokemon be free to do their own thing and live their own lives? I thought it was an interesting discussion to be had within the game as it brought up both points of the argument. Other than that it was your standard Pokemon story, get Pokemon, win badges, be the best.

So now onto my scoring:

Graphics: Amazing, especially on a DS. Beautiful, vibrant, colourful and engaging. 10/10

Sound/Soundtrack: The Pokemon were on point and the overall soundtrack was fantastic, I can’t fault it. 10/10

Gameplay: The gameplay was fairly paint by numbers in terms of J-RPGs, though very fun. Like most RPG games, prepare to put in a lot of time to level up your Pokemon. 8/10

Worth: Yes! For Pokemon fans or for J-RPG fans, a very fun game. 8/10

Story: The story was different, but only for one aspect, Team Plasma and N. Other than that, typical Pokemon story as in there isn’t really one. 6/10

Total: 84/100 B-

I hope you enjoyed my review and as always, thanks for reading!