Monthly Music – February

In the efforts to add on one more thing I want to do, I’ve decided to start a mini review of music here. Why is that? I love music. I listen to it most of my day. But I’ve noticed my recent purchasing to be sporadic and, well, safe.

So here is the plan. Each month I’ll buy two albums and post a mini review here. Only rule is that one has to be fairly new. No limits on genre or theme, which is good. My taste in music is pretty much all over the place.

I’ll be tagging this monthlymusic if you want to follow along at home.


Eminem – Recovery (Rap / Hip Hop)

I’ll admit, while I have always liked Eminem, this is the first album of his I have bought. While the radio songs and the bits of albums I’d heard at other’s houses were good, they just didn’t grab me in that “I must have this!” sort of way. I do own the 8 Mile soundtrack. “Lose yourself” was the Eminem song that I’d been waiting for since I heard the Slim Shady LP. After hearing that song I wanted more Marshall, less Shady.

So I suspect it is a bit funny then that the first album of his I buy I didn’t even listen to first. Rather I just got it on impulse. And it is good. There is still a bit of the humor side in the work, but for the most part it is angry and more personal than simply making fun of boy bands.

The story told is one of someone picking themselves back up from getting off of drugs, of stepping back up. The album talks about making up for things in the past, as well as leaving some things behind.

And the lyrics are cutting, angry and fantastic. One of my favorite is “the last thing you want to do is have me spit out a rhyme and say when I wrote this I was thinking of you.” And you know it is true. Shady or Marshall, Eminem is wrong in all the right ways.

So if you are not easily offended, turn it up. If you are, turn it up louder, it will be good for you.

All That Remains – For We Are Many (Metal)

I got Overcome by ATR at a suggestion of a friend (funny enough, I can’t seem to remember who…) and it sat unlistened for quite a bit on my shelf. Sure I played it on the way home and put it on iTunes, but for the most part ignored it. If memory serves I was on a huge Tupac kick at the time, so that may have contributed to the delay.

Anyway, after its slow start, Overcome has been played quite a bit. And I am grateful to whomever it was that suggested it.

I saw “For We Are Many” come up on my Amazon suggestions, and grabbed it. It was listened to more immediately. The album is solid metal and great driving music. I’m still listening a bit to it, but I’ll admit I do like Overcome a bit more. This album is good, but there is just something a bit tighter about the other album.

Still it was well worth it and it lives in the current album rotation.

Bonus (since it is the first month…)
Norah Jones – …Featuring (Jazz / All Over The Place)

I’ve been in love with Norah Jones since I found her first album in a Borders. She wasn’t famous yet, no Grammy, just a pretty face on a discounted CD and I thought “what the hell.” Turned out to be one of the better choices I have made in my life.

…Featuring is a guest CD but with a twist. From Willie Nelson and Ray Charles, to the Foo Fighters and Q Tip, the guest on each song is Norah herself.

And it is a good album. Norah steps out of her box for a bit and lets the other artists introduce her other genres. The genre’s on the album are all over the place, from jazz, country, rock and hip hop.

So while the experimentations were fun, where she really shines is in the jazz and old country western sounds.

Marine: A Video Game Review

Marines: Modern Urban Combat

Let’s just get one thing out in the open: I pre-ordered this game. I half wonder if I was the only one in the world to do so.

I was on amazon ordering Modern Warfare 2 Mobilized when this game, called Marines, came up. The game, listed as Marines: Assault on Terror, had a box cover that looked like it was modeled after… well Call of Duty Modern Warfare.

I laughed, the game was obviously trying to sneak in under the Modern Warfare 2 radar and get picked up by some unsuspecting parents. Still, i was curious and looked it up and did some reading.

The game is not new. It is a port of an XBox game released in 2005 called Close Combat: First to Fight. The developers met with actual Marines, first it seems to make a training simulator, but then also to make this game.

So I looked up THAT game. Well, Gamespot gave it a 7.3, IGN gave it an 8.0 overall. Not too shabby for a FPS, I thought. The game was going for $30, and I thought what the hell. So I ordered it with MW: Mobilized.

That was back in November. The game was supposed to be out the week after Thanksgiving. Then the first week of December. Then the second. The release date changed at least five times before it finally shipped to me. It arrived today, 28 January, 2010.

So that is how I came in to possession of Marines: Modern Urban Combat, Assault on Terror, Close Combat: FIrst to Wii.

(The game is called Marines: Modern Urban Combat, which is what the box cover art said all along, but not the Amazon listing.)

Now on to the review.

Another confession: I really wanted to love this game.

Marines MUC takes place in an alternate reality (history?) Beirut. A rebel faction has started a civil war and we, the USA, are there to try and stop it. The plot is told through mock news reports from INN, the International News Network.

The game is a squad based game. You and three of your Marine friends travel together through each level. You start by clearing streets, then move to buildings and what not. As squad leader you can give commands to your group, but they are pretty basic.

The controls are pretty standard for Wii FPS. There is no jump, but you can kneel and lie prone. Reload has you move the Wii controller down, then back up. Being an FPS this is an awkward motion, as it takes the camera with it.

Remember this game is an XBox port, and it looks like it. The graphics have not been updated, which isn’t bad, but obviously last generation. But that isn’t the problem. The problem is the refresh / redraw rate. There were times as I turned that noticeable parts of the screen were not keeping up.

And load times. I mention this was an XBox port? I haven’t had load times like this in years. It makes you appreciate how Metriod and some other games will work past the loads as much as possible.

The AI of the game is more impressive than the graphics.The bad guys will hide behind things and even wait for you to move before they shoot. It is not a run and gun, which is admittedly my preferred tactic for these sort of situations. Your squad mates are actually useful, rather than being mobile targets you have to keep alive. The formations they will take are very realistic, and although they will kill baddies, I’ve noticed at times their aim is downright pitiful.

Not that I am one to talk.

The Wii added controls are just not as fluid as I am used to. You can adjust both the dead space and the controller sensitivity. I played with both through the time I was playing, but couldn’t find a good medium. Perhaps there is one and I haven’t found it yet. As for now, it is hard to aim with precision with any sort of urgency. Enemies that were fairly close to me could be hard to hit. Reaction time of the controls was slow and seemingly inconsistent. Using the scope helped some, but slowed down the motion even more.

The thing about this game is that I could see that 7.3 – 8.0 game in it as I was playing. There is a good game in this and it deserved more than a speedy port to cash in on Modern Warfare 2. Rather a slower polish, and applying the same attention to details that brought the original to this one would have resulted in a fairly strong title, even with the XBox graphics.

Instead it is a shadow. Playable, yes, but not what it could be. I’d drop this from an 8.0 to a 5. The game did not start off life as shovelware, it didn’t need to be reincarnated as it.

The New In This Moment Album

(oops! this was supposed to be posted a while ago. sorry!)

When I first found out about In This Moment I thought I had found a small slice of heaven here on this Earth. A metal band with a chick singer. And not just a chick singer, but an “I’M GONNA RIP YOUR FACE OFF” chick singer. I heard Daddy’s Fallen Angel on the radio and couldn’t get to the record store fast enough.

I got the album and was not disappointed (well, except for the fact it was short). Daddy’s Fallen Angel definatly woke up my neighborhood a few times, and Circles became my own ironic workout song.

So when The Dream came on Tuesday (30 September, 2008), I got it. No questions, no reviews, walked in and bought it without thinking about it. I put it in my car stereo and turn it up ready for it, waiting for it. The first song is an intro similar to what “Beautiful Tragedy” had. This was a bit more of an Indian/Middle Eastern sound, like something you’d hear on a Delerium album. I was ready for it.

And what I got was a bit different than what I expected. Rather than the deep crunch of the first album what came out took me by surprise. My first reaction was “what is this?” The album was slower, softer, and seemingly more radio friendly. This was not what I was expecting, not what I wanted. Don’t get my wrong, it is still metal, but more of a Metallica metal, rather than a Lamb of God one.

I didn’t just dismiss it, though. I left it in my disc payer and listened to it a few times more. I found a solid, well made metal album with a much more refined sound than its predecessor. The band that made “The Dream” had come into itself more than the one that made “Beautiful Tragedy”. I thought to check changes in writers or producers, but in the end it is what comes out of the speakers that is important. “The Dream” delivers, even if it is a different package than “Beautiful Tragedy”. I found myself turning it up loud, and perhaps even shifting for emphasis during several of the songs.

The verdict? Buy it. Really, it was great. Yes, I still put in “Beautiful Tragedy” and wish for its spiritual successor, for ITM to turn it up again, but “The Dream” delivered an album experience I can’t turn off.