Hockey Dash (MMO / PC Game)

The people at OGPlanet seem to be trying hard with Hockey Dash, but that might be the problem. Hockey Dash is a new (officially launched on June 9th) online multiplayer hockey game, and I have to admit, it looks really good. Typically, I don’t expect much from online video games in terms of graphics. Most MMO’s are capable of being very pretty, but unless you have a very expensive machine you usually end up turning the graphics to their lowest setting to get the smoothest experience you can. I didn’t have to do this with Hockey Dash and my PC is nothing to brag about. If you ever played the old Sega Dreamcast game “Jet Grind Radio” than you can expect a similar look from Hockey Dash. They make good use of cell shading with lots of bright colors and kooky outfits for your players. Sadly, at this point, that is about all there is to Hockey Dash.

Don’t get me wrong, the game play seems like it could be very in depth and to get good at the game would require a decent amount of video game skill, unfortunately getting to that point would take far too long as the controls are complex and unintuitive. At all times during play you have to be conscious of what all six keyboard buttons do in either offensive or defensive mode. I suppose I could just be dense, but I had trouble making the sort of split-second judgment needed for hockey with all of that to remember. Also the shooting system takes too long, leaving you completely vulnerable as you aim your shot. The biggest difficulty this game faces though is that it depends on the keyboard for directional movement when the mouse would have been a much more natural and precise way to go. When playing hockey it is absolutely necessary that you have freedom to easily move in any direction, but using the keys limits you in that you can’t just press diagonal, but have to consciously decide to press both keys down at once. Had they simply worked out a movement scheme with the mouse, say using the left button to go forward and the mouse itself to control direction, then from there worry about body checks and spins moves and the like, I think the game could have a much less boxed in and forced feel.

For now I can’t recommend playing this game (which requires registration and download and logging into the OGPlanet system to play) but it also in its early stages of development and online games tend to change a lot when they are still new. If they can find a way to make the game more fun, than it’s a definite win. But as it is it’s more like work than play, and no amount of pretty can make up for that.

Canabalt (PC Game)

Well, you jump, and that’s about it. Doesn’t exactly sound like that intense of a gaming experience right? In fact, at first glance Canabalt looks more like a rejected Atari title than the incredibly innovative and fun little gem that it is. I stumbled on the game about a week ago, and since then have been playing it quite a bit and I have to say, this is one of the most impressive games I have seen in a while and if Adam Atomic (the games creator) keeps this sort of thing up he will no doubt go on to even greater things. Continue reading “Canabalt (PC Game)”

Iron Age – Constant Struggle (CD)

Iron Age – Constant Struggle / 2006 Youngblood Records / 10 Tracks / http://www.myspace.com/youngbloodrecords / Reviewed 01 April 2006

It was not an accident that Iron Age makes their actual CD for Constant Struggle” look like an eighties CD. The style put forth on tracks like “We’re Dust / The Violator” looks back to bands like Megadeth and their ilk for influence. Still, the production values of “Constant Struggle”, as well as the vitality that resides in each guitar lick on the CD, makes the band unmistakably in the current moment. “Return To The Void” is a shouted-out track that is fairly skimpy on the actual instrumentation during the track. This allows the vocals to shine brighter than they would normally.

This is not to say that the band is short-shrifting their listeners, but using a different instrumental style than is usually present on these types of album. In fact, there is an inspired guitar line that works through this track at all of the opportune times, regardless of whenever the vocals occur. The normal, guitar-heavy sound of the past is restored for “Fear Itself”. Jason’s vocals work well with the double-guitar attack of Steve and Wade; the drums and bass do not get relegated to the open corners of the disc. Each track is an experiment in how the band can push forth the fullest-sounding track. While songs like “Return To The Void” might have some of the members hold back, the results are nevertheless successful. By the time individuals have listened through “Constant Struggle” a few times, what will become evident is that Iron Age is one of an extreme few bands that are creating something important in hardcore music in the current day.

One of these other bands has to be Righteous Jams, another that could be categorized in the same way would have to be Discipline. The cohesion enjoyed by the tracks on “Constant Struggle” is nothing less than amazing; even the most novice listener would be able to tell that “Evil Ways” was done by the same band that did “Return To The Void”. Iron Age recreates the styles of the eighties while marrying these styles to a current sound. The result is that “Constant Struggle” is an album that individuals can easily sink their teeth into. Give this disc a go or try to figure out when Iron Age is playing a place near year; chances are near perfect that listeners will not be disappointed if they give the band a choice.

Top Tracks: Evil Ways, Return To The Void

Rating: 7.0/10

[JMcQ]

Ion Dissonance – Solace (CD)

Ion Dissonance – Solace / 2005 Abacus / 10 Tracks / http://www.iondissonance.com / http://www.abacusrecordings.com / Reviewed 16 November 2005

While it is hard for me to typically appreciate the style of technical hardcore that bands like Converge play, I feel that Ion Dissonance moves beyond that sound in trying to put the hardest type of music down on disc. Individuals may say that this is just a chaotic mess, that tracks like “Play Dead…And I’ll Play Along” are willy-nilly collections of noise, but I beg to differ. Ion Dissonance have much more in common with bands like Cannibal Corpse and Deicide than Converge and Roses are Red. “O.A.S.D.” will make metal aficionados cream their jeans; it is really in the drums that the band makes the biggest leap during the track.

The production values are nothing special, but do have one solid checkmark going in their favor: with all the machine-gun drumming that goes on during this track, there is not one space where the sound gets muddy. Let’s not sell Jean-Francois short; the work on “Solace” solidifies eir into a position as one of the best current drummers out today. The guitar work laid down on “Cleansed By Silence” by Sebastien and Antoine are nothing to sneeze at, either; the fury and cleanliness of their composition during this track at least put them on the same level as Jean-Francois. It would take a vinyl copy of “Solace” and a multiple-speed record player to fully get Ion Dissonance; the arrangements on the album are so dense and fast that someone would need to slow the album down to half-speed. Tracks are almost never above four minutes, and yet they have the gravity of a classical symphony.

The density previously mentioned has a lot to do with this; individuals keep a buffer of the music in their mind that allows some dissection as the track spins on. Thanks have to go out to the band and Abacus for actually including the lyrics with the CD; however often individuals listen to this style of music, there is virtually no possibility that one can translate everything growled and screamed out by Gabriel. At some point, listeners have to sit back in their chairs and say “damn”. There are no tracks on this album that could conceivably make it into heavy rotation on rock radio, but anyone that gives the album a chance to grow on them will find a beauty in complexity that bands only as talented as Ion Dissonance can create.

Top Tracks: Nil::Solaris, O.A.S.D.

Rating: 8.5/10

[JMcQ]

The Invisible Eyes – Laugh In The Dark (CD)

The Invisible Eyes – Laugh In The Dark / 2005 Bomp! / 16 Tracks / http://www.myspace.com/theinvisibleeyes / http://www.bomp.com / Reviewed 09 December 2005

Psychedelic seems to be the major fuel that drives bands in 2005. Between the Invisible Eyes and The Coffin Lids, there seems to be a single-handed resurrection of the style by Bomp! bands. The Invisible Eyes are more sedate than The Coffin Lids, tending to be more influenced by The Monkees and other purveyors of sixties boy-band pop than acts like the MC5 and The Stooges. Tracks on “Laugh In The Dark” vacillate between sub-one minute bursts of intensity nd longer, three minutes explication of their beliefs as a band. “Don’t Wanna Go” is an example of one of the longer tracks on “Laugh In The Dark”, and is a track that bounces back and forth through two extremes, led forth primarily by its omnipresent synthesizer line.

While each of the tracks on “Laugh In The Dark” will be acceptable to the ears of practically any Clearchannel listeners, there seems to be some structural factor that impedes individuals from getting fully into the band. The slightly-strained vocals of Aubrey may just be the determinant in that equation, as everything that passes through eir lips is on hyper-drive, where the instrumentation present seems to reflect a more thoughtful and controlled environment. Practically the only thing that is missing from the greaser anthem “Luanne” is a set of fingers snapping; this is approximated by the drum-beat on the track, but is no substitute for something that could so easily go into the realm of either “Feed My Frankenstein” or any of the Doors’ hits. Perhaps most groundshaking in its presence has to be the instrumental “Trapezoid Stomp”, a track that gives individuals the opportunity to see the simple brilliance of The Invisible Eyes before the vocals are thrown on.

This means that individuals who may not be able to properly digest Aubrey’s vocal work on this album can be given the possibility to objectively listen to the disc. Showing that complexity is not essential for a successful track, “Monster Blues” shuffles through its two and a half minutes with few distinct chords and vocal differentiation, laughing all the way to the bank. The Invisible Eyes put forth an entire album of hits; while the point must be made that none of these seem to be of the type to easily crossover into mTV, true fans will see this revivalist album as essential. For fans of psychedelic, rockabilly and the earliest days of goth.

Top Tracks: Monster Blues, Trapezoid Stomp

Rating: 5.6/10

[JMcQ]

Intronaut – Void (CD)

Intronaut – Void / 2006 Goodfellow / 7 Tracks / http://www.intronaut.net / http://www.goodfellowrecords.com / Reviewed 10 August 2006

It may take a few seconds for individuals to be properly welcomed (assaulted) by Intronaut, but when you hear the band cranking themselves up during “A Monolithic Vulgarity”, you know that something impressive awaits just around the corner. The track is not just a minute of introduction and then something that drops listeners right into the fury of the band. However, the transitions present are nice into gently introducing listeners and making them a part of the track before the band can go into their metal meets At The Drive-In type of hybrid.

The band does not need to keep throwing in solos and other razzmatazz into their general game; the creation of a narrative specifically on “A Monolithic Vulgarity” and then throughout the rest of the disc is something that is sadly not seen on many other albums. The band might do something that is a slower form of grind at point, but don’t let the band fool you; there is intensity enough to scare even the biggest person on PCP. Even going fancy and moving into a progressive meets funk bass line towards the latter third of the track, Intronaut show themselves as a band that can do anything that they want with their album and can still be able to contextualize it in the morning.

They are the drunk with the lightshade on eir head at the party Friday night and the CEO in the office come Monday morning. None of the tracks on “Void” are shorter than five minutes but Intronaut does not need them to be. There are so many things going on during an Intronaut track that individuals will never feel bored. This is actually a blessing for Intronaut, as the presence of all these layers and different paths during the tracks on “Void” allow listeners to listen to the disc time and time again while trying to find everything that the band has inserted into the disc. The band has something for everyone. For those progressive marks, there are more than enough times during “Void” that they can be placated. For those fans of classic metal, the band makes enough nods to that to even make a Slayer cover band blush. Simply put, this all-star band (featuring former members of Impaled, Exhumed, Anubis Rising, and Uphill Battle) does everything and brings everyone into this disc. “Void” is surprisingly full. Give it a go.

Top Track: Gleamer

Rating: 7.0/10

[JMcQ]

Intrinzik – Double U I Double L (CD)

Intrinzik – Double U I Double L / 15 Tracks / 2004 Intrinz Ink / http://www.intrinzikweb.com / intrinzik@fall-guy.com / Reviewed 18 April 2004

Intrinzik is a key member of Arizona’s Fall Guy, and this album is an album in which we finally see where Intrinzik wants to go. We are immediately assaulted with a diverse sound that mixes together Cypress Hill, House of Krazees, and Kid Rock, along with nu-metal riffs that fit the tracks like a glove. Intrinzik is the master of the chorus, throwing hooks out there like a master fisherman, pulling in listeners like so many idiot fish. Starting out “Company Time” with the most embarrassing of pseudo-skits, Intrinzik practrically saves the track with the electronic-sounding back beat and the simplistic hook of “I wrote this rhyme/on company time”. Continuing the earworm parade with “$”, Intrinzik is able to go and create a compelling sound, incorporating something in the way of narrative with still being able to having that sing-along chorus that all popular rap songs have nowadays. “$” transcends the already high quality of “Double U I Double L” and would be equally at home on any rap-radio station.

“Self Defense” is a weaker track on the disc, but this is weak only in relation to the rest of the disc, not to the rest of rap. Some sections of “Self Defense” seem a little bare in terms of recording, and while this is a minor problem, the track is still leaps and bounds about what is being called rap in this current time. In the intensely personal “Roads”, Intrinzik mixes in piano and an Eastern violin to create an ethereal flow that makes eir’s rough voice even more grave and gravelly. In a track that I’m going to give “Most Fucked Up Lyrics of 2004” to, “Safe Sex” is a track that destroys any notion of the title action with these lyrics: “You took birth control that was selfish of you / Cause if I got your ass pregnant, yo we’d never be trough / We could get all dressed up meet each other at court /I could visit you at school and pay your child support / It’s at the kids expense and he’s my souvenir / Of my missionary mission of fucking you from the rear”.

“Double U I Double L” is an album that will be one of the most underrated rap CDs of 2004. Intrinzik is able to go and incorporate so many different styles and sounds into one cohesive unit, one cohesive music that is absolutely and unmistakably Intrinzik’s. The subject material is always fun, sometimes serious, and the entire disc is something that can stand repeated playings.

Rating : 7.9/10

Top Track: $, Safe Sex

Intangible – Elevate (CD)

Intangible – Elevate / 2005 Larkin Music / 4 Tracks / http://www.intangiblemusic.com / http://www.larkiomusic.com / Reviewed 22 March 2005

Intangible begins their EP with “Release”, a track that explores fully the indie-rock influences of the members of the band, allowing a high-flying Creed-like guitar-solo (which looks back to the rock of the sixties) to dominate the bridges on the track. The drums are still the highest part of the disc, for the intensity garnered by the drumbeat during the chorus rival in intensity Justin’s vocals. The tracks sound very polished, and struggle with this polish, in that everything is almost too perfect to be created by just a grouping of people with instruments. The tracks spin through the twin dangers of keeping interest and sounding too self-indulgent, but these issues are present to a lesser degree on these tracks. For example, the repetition found in the arrangements during “Lean” (a track that approaches nearly four minutes) drags the track on to the limits of what most individuals can stomach.

The third track on this EP, “Search” has a very Alice in Chains meets Coldplay feel to it, as the slow pace of the instruments really allow for Justin to shine. The track also tends to drag at point, as the dreamy environ created by the drums and bass is not enough to support the very tenuous and slender guitar solos that make their residence on this track. Most of the time when I actually get EPs for review in the magazine, I have to put forth the little disclaimer that this is not enough music to properly categorize a band. However, one of Intangible’s strong suits is the fact that each one of these songs are ideological and musical relations, allowing for a listener to put on a clip from any of these songs and be able to identify it as an Intangible song.

There is no doubt in my mind that Intangible will be able to break into Clearchannel radio, but the big challenge that the band will have come their full-length album is that the cohesion that works so well in a four-track situation may spell doom in a twelve-track full-length. I’m sure they will come up with an album that accurately represents their talents, but the key thing they seem to lack – a mentality to break free of the box – may be what keeps their first album back from being something truly great. Listen for their single “Those Around You” and decide for yourself if Intangible is the band for you.

Top Track: Release

Rating: 5.6/10

In Stereo – Death Before Emo (CD)

In Stereo – Death Before Emo / 2005 New School / 6 Tracks / http://www.instereomusic.com / http://www.newschoolrecords.com / Reviewed 23 August 2005

The pop-punk played by In Stereo really is amazing considering that the current band has only been around for four months. Everything sounds smoothed out and mature, not quite unlike a better version of Unwritten Law. “Always And Forever” is reliant on repetitive guitar riffs in the vein of Weezer to succeed the vocals of Jesse are just not powerful enough to inflame the hearts of listeners with this go around. “When I Come Undone” is a track that has both vocals and instruments work at nearly the same wavelength; the catchy vocal hooks laid down by Jesse will make this into an eminently radio-worthy track. By the time that “Hey Amy” comes on, the clichéd guitar riffs and structure laid down by In Stereo really begins to grate on the ears, something that could be combated with the inclusion of a differing sound.

As it is, In Stereo really is a guilty pleasure type of band, much like SR-71 where their music may be episodic, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t eminently catchy. The inclusion of a fifties-influenced slower-tempo song in the final track “In The End” really skirts the line between seriousness and melodrama and is really a perfect capsule view of the entire disc. After all is said and down, “When I Come Undone” is the one track that will have a second life on all the radio stations and video music stations; as for anything else really coming close to the talent exhibited by the track on “Death Before Emo”, the disc sadly is lacking. Perhaps a move away from such a polished sound would be good for In Stereo, as the production has the tendency to remove anything in the slightest bit rough from the finished product.

Tracks do not have any sublime moments, just three or four minutes of pop-punk that does not change the current paradigm in any meaningful way. “Undertow” has the most impressive arrangement of any songs on “Death Before Emo”; the warmth of the multi-vocal layering towards the end of the track shows a victory for Marc’s production, something made all the more important after the questionable decision to make In Stereo’s sound so toothless. Still, as the band finds their own sound, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that In Stereo has the musical ability to succeed. The impending full-length will be interesting to hear just to see if In Stereo has moved away from the sound of “Death Before Emo”. Let’s just hope they have by then.

Top Track: When I Come Undone

Rating: 4.4/10

Instant Camera – Alive On Departure (CD)

Instant Camera – Alive On Departure / 2005 Wall To Wall / 10 Tracks / instantcamera1@yahoo.com / wfw_records@yahoo.com / Reviewed 14 July 2005

The opening track “Beyond Infinity” starts off with a mixture of different style, taking equal parts from Radiohead and Coldplay just as from the dream-pop movement from the mid-nineties. The rockabilly approach to “Dr. Glass” mixes with Modern English to have Instant Camera attack with a new romantic-like sound early on the disc. “Shadowman” is the band’s first noticeably weak spot on “Alive on Departure”; the droning guitars seem to repeat themselves too much, even neutralizing the piano splashes on the track. The weakness present on “Shadowman” is eliminated for the follow-up track “Social Anxiety”.

In this track, the continual electronic edge to the band’s output meshes well with the bass lines scattered throughout the track. Finding the same sort of drone that was such a problem on “Shadowman” during “Working Class Zero”, Instant Camera tries valiantly to incorporate a rapidly-increasing tempo to the track. This gambit may make the track more palatable, but does not compare to the full-out stops made by the band during tracks like “Existing To Cease”. The disc may only be thirty minutes long, but the repetition found between tracks on “Alive On Departure” is such that “Terrorvision” has the same echoing, retro-eighties sound as a number of other tracks on the disc. Trying to recall The Beatles during “Hearing Is Disbelieving”, Instant Camera biffs up what would be a fairly easy task by incorporating much too much in the way of extra material on the disc. Couple that with a lounge-singer approach to the vocals, and what originally was a solid track musically (taking on Elvis Costello’s seventies sound) is turned into a shambling mess. The disc is full of its ups and down, and really lacks a track that just screams radio-worthy.

There is no denying that the members of Instant Camera are talented and innmoovative enough to come up with a solid blueprint for their style of music, but their foresight does not extend far enough in the future to maintain this “new” sound. Perhaps an expansion in Instant Camera’s general sound and a move away from clichéd guitar lines (as is present during “Style Over Substance Abuse ”) would be the panacea for the majority of “Alive On Departure’s” ills. As it is, this album has a number of solid tracks, but their impact is lessened with the close scatter stylistically of the music. Give the band another chance; see them live if you have to.

Top Tracks: Social Anxiety, Style Over Substance Abuse

Rating: 4.0/10