October 25, 2013

Steel Prophet: Omniscient ··· In-Depth Review of the Upcoming Album


(This is not the real artwork of the new album.
It's just something I put together for fun.)

So here it finally is.

After almost a decade, the American Power Metal heroes Steel Prophet are back. Their new album titled Omniscient will hit the shelves in 2014. Their last album Beware was released in 2004, the last album with their regular vocalist Rick Mythiasin, Unseen, even in 2002 — so when waiting impatiently for  such a long time, expectations tend to grow astronomically. And while this mostly results in at least a slight disappointment, positive surprises do happen every once in a while nonetheless. I'm delighted to announce that Steel Prophet's new album marks one of those rare occasions.

For the first time since 1999's Dark Hallucinations album, the band is in "storytelling mode" again. Omniscient is a concept album of cosmic proportions – a journey through time and space and along Earth's history, with a strong focus on humanity and life itself. In the booklet, you'll get the whole story as told by the protagonist. The lyrics of the songs are part of that story, each song emphasizing on a particular moment in the story. When I planned this in-depth review, I intended to tell you about the whole story and reveal what the lyrics are about. However, I quickly decided not to do that. I won't spoil any story content here as you should really experience it yourselves. Don't worry, there's still lots to talk about and reveal. So let's dive deep into the new material. I promise you it will be one hell of a ride.


Omniscient starts with a short intro of about half a minute which immediately reminds the listener of the good old days when Steel Prophet songs like Reign of Christ, Devoid of Logic or To Grasp Eternity set the mood with that short moment of anticipation before the full power was unleashed. So brace yourselves for Trickery of the Scourge, the opener of the album. Now, some of you might have heard an early version of this song which was uploaded to Steel Prophet's old MySpace site back on May 4th, 2008. However, this new album version is more refined and has plenty of new ideas. In its vein, it's quite comparable to the Messiah or Book of the Dead style, while being reminiscent of the first album The Goddess Principle in the chorus' vocal harmonies. During the second half of the song, you'll hear a break that's a direct homage to the song Souls Without Honor of said first album. So there you have it; the perfect mixture of Steel Prophet's styles over the years. Everything's fresh, exciting and, most of all, rich in variety. Rick's very melodic vocals sound as if no time had passed since 2001 – Steel Prophet fans will feel right at home. This might be the band's very best opener of any album ever.

Next up is When I Remake the World which features a groovy shredding guitar riff. Rick's vocals are somewhat distorted which adds a mystical aspect to the atmosphere. Even though the riff mainly stays the same, the drumming's really varied and there are some exciting changes of rhythm. The memorable melodic chorus will be stuck in your head for a long time after listening to the album. To every metal fan's delight, the first guitar solo in this song is one complex celebration that might even be compared to Blind Guardian's best moments. Rick's powerful trademark vocals sound a bit different in style, compared to the first song, and there's plenty of variety to them. Some almost narrative singing here, some emotional vocal harmonies there, some soaring high notes plus a triumphant laughter to top it all off before the second guitar solo will leave the listeners with shivers of joy down their spines.

Steel Prophet fans never cease to rave about one of the key trademarks of the band: the galloping riffs featuring rhythm guitar and drums – as heard in songs like 1997's Trapped in the Trip and Hate² or 2000's The Ides of March. No Steel Prophet album would be complete without them and so the next song 9/11 opens with exactly those "gallop riffs". Rick starts off in a somewhat deliberately semi-monotonous vein and medium speed, then progresses more and more angrily and agressively (think Scarred For Life) – and just when it seems he has reached his boiling point, the chorus kicks in in a surprisingly slow and haunting way. If one was to compare the chorus to something that already exists in metal, the haunting chants of the band Solitude Aeturnus might be an appropriate comparison. The second half of the song continues with the previous aggression while Rick adds a lot more variety. High-pitched screams go hand in hand with mean grunts — it's a sheer pleasure and even reminds a bit of the band's classic The Revenant. This time, it's not the chorus which kicks in after that. Instead, we get a glorious long guitar solo playing the refrain's melody and bringing back an atmosphere that's reminiscent of the album Dark Hallucinations. It's joined by the rhythm guitar in perfect collaboration. One last time, Rick summarizes the whole thing and the song slowly fades out with the guitar's familiar vibe.

No time to take a breather yet, people, as Chariots of the Gods picks up right where 9/11 left off. The riffing and drumming seems even heavier and the lead guitar accompanies the rhythm section perfectly. This is one of many tracks of the album in which you can easily notice the complex layering of instrumentation – and while at first this might seem a bit much, you'll discover new details with every new spin of the album. Once more, Rick vociferates – but with more of a lamentation than before. And once again, just before you think he couldn't escalate anymore, just before the heavy shredding is about to become overbearing, something surprising kicks in about halfway through the song: a mid-tempo chorus with relaxing drumming, embellished with some bell rattle. It relieves all the tension, all the anger, all the emotions and feels like slowly and fully breathing in and out after a lot of pressure – done masterfully through the music! What follows is a glorious high-tuned guitar solo playing to the aforementioned relaxing percussion. The song ends by going full throttle once more. Again: even though this song might seem a bit much at first, it quickly becomes an absolute favourite.


As soon as the first notes of the next song start, Steel Prophet fans will have big smiles on their faces. Tree of Knowledge is a perfect candidate for a hit single. It features a typical Iron Maiden-ish riff that's reminiscent of many of the Steel Prophet songs fans have considered hits over the years – especially Escaped from Book of the Dead, Messiah from the album of the same title and the Purgatory section of Ides of March/Purgatory from the album Into the Void. However, this song easily demonstrates how far the band has evolved as the song can't be called predictable at any moment. Just when you think you've got the riff figured out, something special appears – be it Rick's versatile singing, several changes of rhythm or a surprising break in the percussion section. The song stays fresh and exciting at all times while delivering that typical vibe Steel Prophet fans have loved from the beginning. The chorus is positive and uplifting while the third fourth of the song brings another slow section with Rick's mystical chants. This is love at first listen.

And now we reach the centerpiece of Omniscient. 666 is Everywhere (The Heavy Metal Blues) starts off with an atmospheric 1½-minute intro that's instantly recognizable as "typically Steel Prophet", combining the sound of early albums with that of the slower moments of Dark Hallucinations or the instrumental pieces of Book of the Dead – and then blasting off into a metal anthem like no other! The main riff seems to scream "bang your head! Heavy Metal is back"! This is where Rick's vocals absolutely shine as the main attraction, beautifully accompanying the riff with a blues-like diversity and everything he's got in his repertoire. The long virtuosic solo in the middle of the song plays to a drum sequence that makes you want to jump up and down in a huge crowd of metal fans. I bet this will work perfectly live – as will the chorus! Already at first listen, you'll picture hundreds of metal fans shouting "666! 666! 666! 666!". And then the song brings back something that hasn't been featured in a Steel Prophet song for many many years: a very calm melodic passage with spoken words like in Reign of Christ from the first album or the opening section of Ghosts Once Past from Messiah. This is followed by one last, and very powerful, shouting of the chorus, before...

... we're carried right into the beautiful remake of the fun outro Oleander from Book of the Dead. This new version called Oleander Deux is carried by a cool guitar rhythm and features Rick having fun singing adlibs to the song. An absolute treat for any fan who enjoyed their Book of the Dead album – it brings back memories while celebrating the return of Steel Prophet at the same time. After a bit over a minute, Rick's very mellow and beautiful vocals lead us to Aliens, Spaceships and Richard M. Nixon (X Files fans, listen up, this is the stuff of your dreams). The song is based on another one of those perfect "gallop riffs" and the lead guitar adds a melodic ground layer to them, which reminds a bit of the mystical atmosphere of the band's great song Mysteries of Iniquity. If you haven't already celebrated that Steel Prophet are finally back, this is where you'll definitely go crazy. During the verses, Rick sings in a very narrative style and continues very rhythmically while the drumming progresses. The chorus follows with deep and haunting vocals and in a mystical slowness. Altogether, the song is so catchy that you'll keep coming back to it all the time. Another instant favourite from the new album and yet another top candidate for a single release.

Time to relax for a bit – as Through Time and Space opens with a semi-ballad-type intro which is very reminiscent of the beginning of New Life from Dark Hallucinations. Long-time Steel Prophet fans know all about the fact that the band dropped its most complex song structures over the years in favor of a more streamlined style that's more suited for live audiences. This song however shows that they still got their talent for complex compositions big time! The complete structure is absolutely brilliant and perfectly accompanied by Rick's extremely passionate and ever-changing vocals: at first, there's the verse marching slowly and placidly, then a short high-speed section, and thirdly, a bridge with stomping mid-tempo drumming embellished by the high-tuned guitar playing in short intervals – probably my most favourite moment of the whole album for now. The following chorus is another really melodic chant accompanied by the blasting double bass. As yet another surprise, the song ends in a very quiet tone, embellished by gentle piano strokes. The very familiar exclamation "He's dead, Jim." marks the transition to the next song.

Funeral for Art goes back to the basic and streamlined melodic metal style while still changing between stomping mid-tempo riffing and uptempo rhythms. The song is interspersed with some narrative pieces, sometimes angry, sometimes sad, and surprising breaks. The chorus is another catchy singalong tune you won't want to miss ever again.

The Call of Katahdin is a short and quiet instrumental intermission reminding a bit of Ruby Dreams (Faith and Hope). It serves as a nice break before the last regular song on the album is unleashed. The following Transformation Staircase is a dark, dramatic finale with shredding guitars, Rick's angry vocals, sometimes close to grunting, sometimes blustering into high-pitched screams. The chorus is another one of those Solitude Aeturnus-style haunting chants, accompanied by a thundering double bass. The song's final guitar solo brings back the awesome Dark Hallucinations vibe (think Betrayal or Look What You've Done this time).

This concludes the regular tracks of Omniscient.


The album also features two bonus tracks, the first of which being a cover version of Queen's all-time classic Bohemian Rhapsody. Steel Prophet do have a great reputation for making awesome cover versions – just remember Fates Warning's The Apparition, Helloween's Ride the Sky or Iron Maiden's Purgatory – and if you have experienced Steel Prophet celebrating Bohemian Rhapsody on the Keep It True XVI festival in early 2013, you'll know exactly what you're going to get: an epic metal variant with some hilarious tongue-in-cheek moments. It's fun and satisfying as hell. The second bonus track is called George Orwell (is Rolling in his Grave) and was written by vocalist Rick Mythiasin. It's something quite different to the rest of the album with the vocals having a somewhat high-speed narration style. All in all it's a perfect exclamation point to the whole album.

And then... the story's over.
You're probably left with an open mouth and a sore neck from all the headbanging.

What a bomb!

Everybody knows that the term "masterpiece" is overused as hell and still regularly and carelessly spouted out by record companies as well as reviewers all the time. With Steel Prophet's new album Omniscient the term truly fits for once. Up until now, songs like Through Time and Space and Funeral for Art, bursting with variety and surprises, could only be found on the early Steel Prophet releases. It's simply amazing how the band managed to resurrect this style and put it in context with their later works, combining all the styles, adding new ideas and thus transforming the whole thing into something new and exciting. Though it might seem a bit much after listening to the whole album for the first time, as it's layer upon layer of carefully intertwined instrumental compositions, the combination of variety and the groovy heaviness will have you hooked in no time.

To sum it all up: Steel Prophet are finally back. And they're back with the most versatile, atmospheric, catchy and heavy creation in their career. And this is not an exaggeration or some honeymouthed fanboyism, it's a fact. Omniscient is a must-have for fans of all eras of Steel Prophet, as well as metal fans in general.

It will be released in early 2014. Additionally, all the previous albums will be re-released as vinyl editions. Good times to be a Steel Prophet fan, I tell you. :)

October 22, 2013

Why "The Theory of Everything" Is Everything To Me.

To some people the new Ayreon album is "just" an awesome upcoming album featuring some very special musicians. To others it's the one release that's more important than anything – along the lines of "no matter what happens in life - as long as I'll have the new Ayreon album in my hands, all is good". The latter describes my passion for the album quite well – though not in its entirety. So let me explain.

To my shame, I must admit that I discovered Ayreon in 2005, not earlier. But when I did, it completely blew me away. "The Human Equation" was my first contact with the realm of Arjen Anthony Lucassen's perfection that is the prog metal opera Ayreon. It had it all. The perfect blend of prog, rock, folk and metal in a musical-opera that exceeded my wildest dreams. The perfect vocalists for all the different roles. But most of all: one of the most gripping and touching storylines I'd ever experienced in music.


Later on, of course, I got all of Arjen's music. I collected each Ayreon release in the best possible versions, got plenty of autographs on them, too, got Ambeon, Star One, Guilt Machine (on which you can even hear my voice at the beginning!), Strange Hobby and much more. I let my dreams and fantasies carry me away while listening to the amazing "Dream Sequencer", travelled through time, rode on the waves of time and got into the official Ayreon forum where many other fans (to be called friends later on) intertwined all the Ayreon releases into one coherent storyline. And when "01011001" came out (must have been THE single most awesome release party in the history of the universe!), this storyline was even spelled out – and a lot like we Ayreonauts on the official forum thought it would be.

"Zero One" is an amazing album, as are all the previous albums, too.
But "The Theory of Everything" will be different. It will be something absolutely special.

Why?

Well... what gripped me most, emotionally, was the amazingly exciting story of "The Human Equation". Characters you followed through a story, through an adventure. An adventure of love, hate, betrayal, childhood memories, relationships, desires, hopes and wishes. "The Final Experiment", "Into the Electric Castle" and "The Universal Migrator" did, too. You were in the shoes of the progagonists and you felt for them. You lived their ups and downs.

You laughed when "Me" proposed to his wife and she knelt down too for she thought he'd lost his keys. You cried when the Egyptian closed her eyes for all eternity in the Valley of the Queens. You suffered when you stood in the sands of Mars and were truly alone – the last human in existence and you couldn't even get home. You wept when the "Foreverians" reminisced about their life beneath the waves. You triumphed when you opened the gate to your destiny after traversing the mighty Electric Castle. You travelled on the Migrator trail, you contemplated life as the first man on Earth and you were struck with awe when the outcome of the Final Experiment was placed in your hands.

You WERE those persons.

Don't get me wrong, I regularly travel to the Planet Y with "Zero One" and it's one of my favourite albums. It is emotionally captivating, too (of course it is – it's by Arjen, he kinda does that every time!). It's just that it lacked a bit of that specific element of following persons through an adventure.

Now "The Theory of Everything" will have that, again. It will be the first Ayreon since "The Human Equation" — read: the first Ayreon after nine years — to take you away on a journey you won't ever forget. The next step across the borders of the Ayreon Universe.


So welcome aboard, Ayreonauts. Take a seat and dim the light.
Lie down in the energy tank and place the electrodes on your temples.
Empty your mind.
And hold on tight.

And remember.
Forever.



Thank you, Arjen.

July 6, 2010

Make it sound like 12 years in the past!

Lately, I heard the news that the Italian power metal band Labyrinth will soon release their new album which will be called "Return To Heaven Denied - Part II: A Midnight Autumn's Dream". It will be the successor of their (broadly considered best) classic "Return To Heaven Denied" from 1998. And again, I'm reminded of the fact that 1998 was a mindblowingly brilliant year for fans of great metal music.

On my profile page of the german social community "meinVZ" (some sort of Facebook ripoff) I have a list mentioning things I like and things I don't like. On the "like"-side I wrote "most metal albums that were released in 1998". I thought it was funny, at first, but over and over again I stumble upon absolutely awesome albums that were indeed released in 1998, too! So it's actually true!


My first metal album ever was "Tales Of Mystery And Imagination" from Nocturnal Rites, which was also released in 1998. I was 16 back then and it was my entrance to the amazing and enchanting world of awesome metal melodies, great guitar virtuosos and overwhelming keyboard arrangements. Up to this day, THIS is what I'm looking for when listening to new releases in a store. But let's see... what awesome albums were released in 1998? Some of my favourites from that year are:


Ayreon · Into The Electric Castle
Blind Guardian · Nightfall In Middle-Earth
Destiny's End · Breathe Deep The Dark
Fates Warning · Still Life
Fear Factory · Obsolete
Helloween · Better Than Raw
Iced Earth · Something Wicked This Way Comes
KenZiner · Timescape
Labyrinth · Return To Heaven Denied
Mephistopheles · Songs For The Desolate Ones
Nightwish · Oceanborn
Nocturnal Rites · Tales Of Mystery And Imagination
Rage · XIII
Rhapsody · Legendary Tales
Shadow Gallery · Tyranny
Symphony X · Twilight In Olympus


Of course there are many more - but these are the ones I like most.

Back then, I wasn't THAT thrilled about the Labyrinth album. It was quite nice and had its unique moments but I preferred Nocturnal Rites, Blind Guardian and Rhapsody back then. Still, I'm really tensioned about the release of the new Labyrinth album - mostly because for once, the lineup is exactly the same as it was back in 1998, so there's actually the chance of getting a TRUE successor this time.



Some years ago, Helloween released "Keeper Of The Seven Keys - Part III: The Legacy" which was a nice idea - and it was a decent album, too - but the biggest problem about that album was the vocalist.


Back in 1987 and 1988, when the two "Keeper" albums were released, Helloween still had their second (and best, in my opinion) vocalist Michael Kiske. All the fans out there who love the original "Keeper" albums have HIS voice in the back of their heads when remembering the old songs! And not the voice of Andi Deris! Andi does a nice job with the later albums - he's not a bad vocalist - it's just that he's not Michael Kise! And if you don't have his name on your passport: forget about singing on a "Keeper" album, will ya?

I'm not too fond about Queensryche's "Operation Mindcrime", otherwise I could have mentioned that they released a successor to that one, too and I could have reflected on that a bit - but quite frankly, I've not a clue about Queensryche. And I tried listening to "Operation Mindcrime" several times as the concept sounds really interesting (I'm a huge fan of dystopias) - but Geoff Tate REALLY gets on my nerves already at the beginning of the album...



Now, where was I...? Oh yeah, the new Labyrinth release. Well... it's not only that there'll be another potentially good album from this specific band which makes my metal-senses tingle - it's something better! It's the possibility that there actually MIGHT be a new album out that has the potential of sounding like a great old 1998 album!!
This is a bit like the sensation when Capcom released the game "MegaMan 9" which was exactly like the great classics from 20 years ago - PERFECTION!! Now, if something like THAT could happen in the world of metal music - that would be something huge!

Now why do I have a vague premonition that this sounds too good to actually happen...?

April 7, 2010

Take the thoughts right out of my brain


I remember a conversation with some friends I had a while ago, talking about the power of the subconscious. We talked about how our subconscious seems to know everything a bit earlier than we ourselves realize it in our brains. Like... MINUTES before we grab the glass of whiskey that stands on the table right in front of us, our subconscious already planned it all. That itself is quite an overwhelming fact, if you ask me. But... thinking about it made me realize (or... better yet... assume) that there's more to it than that. In fact, a lot more.

Most of the blog entries I wrote here contain thoughts and unanswered questions about the Universe. Perhaps to the extent that some of you readers wouldn't want to read another syllable about it anymore - but bear with me on this one. Because it may concern you more than you'd think this time.

Did you ever hear about twins being connected by some force we can't grasp at all? There are countless reports of twins experiencing the most awkward - and allegedly coincidental - occurrences. Of course, certain similarities can be traced back to similar genes and stuff. Like the most obvious of course: a uniform appearance. But there are other things that can only be described as some inexplicable bond. One twin catches a cold and two days later the other twin gets ill, too, even though he might live 500 kilometers away. Or like... one twin feels the urge to call the other twin and seconds later the phone rings because that other twin had the same idea at the same time. Mere coincidence? Oh, and there are other - even almost paranormal - reports about things like that. So... what's the deal with it?

It seems that there's an invisible bond which - in its power - could be compared to a magnetic force or any other law of nature. This brings up ideas and questions that you may not have thought of before. One would be: could this be a remaining trace of a subconscious bond we humans once all had or will have some time in a far away future? Could it really be that if we ever were to take a next step on the staircase of evolution and to actually use our brains to a full extent - scientists say that nowadays we merely use 10% of it - there might be some sort of... powerful controlled subconscious bond between all us humans. Which would make us far less lonely and thus be a really bright future. Maybe. Maybe not. And: if we live to see that result and not blast our planet to space debris.


Then there's this other thought I want to elaborate on. It's the origin of all this. Have I ever told you that we know next to nothing about the Universe? So what if this mystical invisible bond, this power, this force, actually has its origins in the mystical and vast depths of space? Maybe it's another law of physics we just haven't established a formula for yet! The subconscious - another key to the legendary Theory Of Everything?

Doesn't sound THAT far fetched...

February 2, 2010

And another thing...

Sundays (and Saturday afternoons, too) suck. They are days that are destined for spending time with your loved one. And when you don't HAVE a loved one (anymore), those moments simply suck. How to fill the emotional black hole that cruelly sucks you in? No book can distract you from the loss of warmth. Not even your favourite music can keep the memories from avalanching onto your uncovered, unprotected, unarmed soul. Spending time with friends seems to be the only alternative - now while it doesn't cure completely it's definitely healthy and lifts you up. Especially when they're dear compassionate friends who comprehend your situation. Either way... sometimes it seems like putting a small adhesive plaster on a gaping flesh wound - a lovely idea but noneffective in the end. Still it's better than to spend your time alone.


If I'll ever put an end to it all it'll most probably be on a Sunday. Then again, ending it all doesn't help either, that's the problem! The only thing it does is hurt others. Let's jump back to the previous blog entry - even if there WERE an afterlife-place it wouldn't be the way to go anyway! Of course the loss of love can be the most horrible phase to go through in life! But at least you can still be in places that feel like home. Spend time with people who you know and who know you. Do things you've always done and be the one you've always been.

Now imagine!

Imagine what it would be like to journey into the afterlife from where you can watch your old home and the people that once were your friends and relatives. You could watch them, maybe hear them talk, watch them spend their time. But you couldn't go there anymore. Wouldn't that be a hell of a lot worse? I think so. Especially when you would see them suffer and cry and grow disconsolate.


So get a grip. Chin up as much as you can. Open up to people so that they can lift you up. Listen to Muse's "Origin Of Symmetry" and maybe IQ's "Frequency" (in case they don't remind you of your lost relationship). Get a good cup of English tea, grab that favourite blanket, plant yourself on your couch and sweep the dust off the good old "Friends"-DVDs. Whatever it is you're doing - just get a fucking grip.

"Spend the days with all my friends
They're the ones on whom my life depends
Gonna miss them when the series ends..."
("Prodigal", Porcupine Tree)

Note to myself: the autobiographical aspect of blog entries is too damn obvious. Stop that. TL;DR, TMI, exposure, vulnerability and stuff.

January 26, 2010

The Sardaukar are closing in!! What to do, Paul, what to do??!

Do you also do that? Sometimes when there's a captivating book you read that really sucks you in, you get sort of carried away. There are moments when you even try to think of solutions to the protagonist's predicaments! (Hey, there's some tongue-twister! Try saying these last two words quickly 20 times!) At least that's what happens to me when the book/videogame/film/tv-series is REALLY good. Provided there's nothing serious going on in my own life - nothing that makes me worry or ponder or lay awake at night. You really need a carefree mind in order to be able to ponder about irrelevant stuff like that.

Sometimes when something absolutely grave happens in your life, something crushing like, say, your girlfriend breaks up with you after a long relationship, it seems there's nothing that can lift you up. You hear all the advice, maybe even read about the "key to positive thinking" or some other crap but in the end it all doesn't ease your mind at all. It's yourself you're doubting. You're in search of all the negative aspects that might have been the cause of the breakup - even if those weren't the cause but only outer circumstances you personally couldn't change. You end up tormenting your mind over and over again. And there's no way out of that. Especially not when... well...

...did you ever hear the person who broke up with you say "I just need time for myself"? If so, you might have thought about it a little while. You might have also come up with the impression that there's a sheer endlessness of thoughts that declare this sentence as a complete shitload of crap! For starters, we humans are alone all our lives.

In the 1956 sci-fi novel "The City and the Stars" by Arthur C. Clarke there's a tribe of people who have one collective mind and thus are never alone. Those people pity us "regular humans" immensely saying "how awfully lonely you must be in your seperated minds".

If you live in (or visit) some random big city you'll notice: the frickin' place is crowded with people! And most of these people stroll from A to B with no company but their own thoughts. They're alone in their own minds. Each person seems to resemble a world of his own, without any company.

No matter how much we bond with another person, no matter how many things we share with others, no matter how intimate we are towards other people - at the end of the day we're all alone in our minds. (That's one of the reasons why sleeping next to another person feels so comfortable, too. So that we can at least be next to each other and share what we can.) No one else will ever have the insight we have of ourselves, no matter what we do.

So why would anyone choose to be completely alone instead of at least sharing what we can share?

Also, if said relationship was limited to seeing each other at weekends because of living apart from each other - WHY ON EARTH should someone need any MORE time? You realize you had 5 days for yourself while only 2 days of spending time with your loved one, don't you?

Doesn't this sentence, this hardly bearable "time for myself"-crap simply translate into the much more logical "I think I'd prefer to look around some more - maybe there's someone other than you I'd rather share my time with!"...?

... if it IS like that: SAY IT, GODFUCKINGDAMMIT, SAY THE FUCKING WORDS!!!
Man, how's making up phrases easier than saying the truth?

Oh, if you thought this blog entry might help you with that "tormenting your mind"-stuff... there's only one way out. And no, I don't mean taking your own life.

Contrary to what I might have said about life, death, resurrection, The Maya, the Beyond and all that in previous blog entries - and contrary to the lasting impression left in me by the breathtaking journey into the afterlife I regularly take part in through the solo album of Riverside vocalist Mariusz Duda, "Lunatic Soul" - when it all comes down to one thing, there's only one reality I do believe in.

There's nothing after you die.

"What will survive of me
A cardboard box with thoughts inside
What will survive of me
My little escapes from real life"

─ "The Final Truth" by Lunatic Soul

We humans are the only creatures that are aware of death. Dogs don't know they'll die. Cats don't (or at least we think so - who knows what's in their mystic little heads anyway?) and all the other animals don't either. We're not satisfied with that uncomfortable definitive fact, of course. So we constantly think up things that might occur after we die. A light at the end of the tunnel, Heaven and Hell, some resurrection process we have to go through in order to live again someday, some afterlife harem place with tons of virgins or waterfalls of milk and honey...

I could list hundreds of fantastic outcomes, all of which would be based on hope; all of which would be some moral Karma-thing by which we lead our lives. You know like... in order to get reborn or get a great seat in the front row in Heaven with lots of pleasures - just be good during your lifetime (or bad, of course, if you're one of those badass suicide bomber mofos). It's ridiculous but at least it serves a purpose, I guess.


Sorry, got off the track again... what was I about to say? ... Oh yeah, the solution to that "tormenting your mind"-thing. It's not ending your life - that's what I wanted to say. Cause that would be plain stupid as you wouldn't get any positive consequences out of that. Suicide is pointless as you're not relieved of any pain because relief is a feeling and you don't feel shit after you die - so you couldn't even enjoy the lack of pain.

No no no, that one thing you can do is something different. It's one of the hardest things to do - yet it's the easiest choice you'll have - cause there's no choice.

Let time pass.
Try to live your life.
It may be hard but it's always better than nothing at all.

That's all.
Nothing else to do.

And I'm sorry about that, I am.

October 8, 2009

Ponder Yonder

So last time we took a quick glance at life, the universe and everything. This time I'd like to share some thoughts... or better yet... feelings about the second of the three with you. I won't be rambling on about how immensely vast space is, though. Well... not exactly, that is... HEY! Wait!! Where are you going??

Have you ever spent half a day browsing through Wikipedia reading through articles about the universe, different discoveries that were made far outside our own solar system? Did you stumble upon articles about eerie space phenomenas you'd never heard before, chemical properties you'd never imagined before and inexpressible names you'd never tried to spell before? Well... I did. Twice!


The Big Picture

And you really get the strangest feeling when then stepping out of your house, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin and watching the sunlit ground, the shiny concrete, the moss grown trees. Recognizing that all the everyday hassle, the superfluous ruckus just doesn't mean a frickin' thing! It's then you realize that - presumably - all the people around you (especially the ones CREATING the superfluous ruckus) don't see the big picture!

Taking a stroll around town, you see the creations we humans accomplished. Houses, streets, cars, schools, everything. What if something from outer space, some incomprehensible something would happen? Something that had effect on our planet? Something that would galvanize the whole world! I do believe (note: without worrying about dangers from space!) that it's quite possible! It almost seems natural - just think about the fact that we know next to nothing about space, what's behind the whole thing or what's "beyond" it!

We all would get along a whole lot better if we'd just focus on how insignificant we are and that everything we're doing on Earth merely serves the purpose to enable and embellish our lives! It doesn't have effect on ANYTHING else!

It's like we're hamsters in a cage that's standing in a room in some house. It's extremely hard to get out of the cage, to begin with! So what does that hamster do instead? It ignores the rest outside the cage. It can see the room, it can look outside the boundaries - but all it can do is focus on what's going on in its own small "world". It cares about food, about drinking, about cleaning its "lair", about cleaning itself and about passing the time. If there's some other hamster around in that cage, it cares about that one too, of course.

Exactly like that, we choose to not care about what's outside Earth (our "cage") because we're not going to get out anyway! And the hardly apperceptible vastness BEYOND our solar system (the "room in which the cage stands")? We try to IMAGINE what it's like out there but that's all - and even that is hardly possible!

But the fact that we're merely imagining the whole thing out there results in a strange effect - at least I think so because I'll never be able to validate it. It's as follows: imagine you're asleep, randomly dreaming of a specific place you often visit in daily life. This usually feels sort of strange. The place you're dreaming of doesn't feel as sharp-edged, as clear, as well-defined than when you're actually there. If anything, it feels more cottony, blurry and... well... dreamlike, actually! So I BET that's how it would be if we were to roam in outer space. Everything will be a lot clearer than in our imagination - and really corporeal! Because it's not just some place we imagine! It's something that really exists - even if most people chose to ignore it.

Most people don't even try to imagine anything at all! I mean... go ahead and ask some guy from Wall Street if he has recently thought about the universe. Apart from thinking you're some esoteric sandal-wearing hippie who believes in the power of stones or in the existence of fairies he'll be splitting his sides with laughter. It's all a matter of perspective, I guess.

The Urge To Escape... Again!

Ever felt the need to get off this planet to just see what it's like outside? Of course we don't have that possibility (unless you, reader, are an astronaut, which I highly doubt), so all we can do is: escape into artificial worlds, into a simulated universe. Ever heard of "Elite", "Frontier" or "Starflight"? Yep, those are REALLY old computer games. But they do the trick a lot better than newer simulations. No, I'm not kidding. Yes, I DO know what I'm talking about. No, I'm not going to shut up. Oh yeah?? Well, same to you, pal!


These are really brilliant. While the graphics - of course - can't compete with space games that are released nowadays, there are plenty of realistic features that simply aren't contained in recent space simulations. Of course, games like "Freelancer", "X²: The Threat", "X³: Reunion" and "Darkstar One" try to follow the footsteps of their spiritual predecessors but at the same time lack one single element that's been craved by many gamers who enjoy this genre:

Landing on planets!
I mean... what would you find most interesting when having the ability to roam around in space with your very own vessel, your trusty, speedy, nimble spaceship. Would you prefer to board space stations and visit all the same places over and over again (i.e. bar, commodity merchant, ship dealer, mission terminal - isn't it always like that)? Communicate with other spaceships via radio? ─ Or would you rather land on a strange, unfamiliar planet and explore its surface, anxious about what wonderous otherworldly beings, colonies, ways of life you might find...? Now...? ...... I thought so! :)

In "Starflight" you may land on each of the countless planets and explore them. The word countless might not say enough, so let's be specific here: there are 270 star systems and 800 planets. All yours to explore! In the different versions of the game, the exploration part looks different too. You can fight or capture creatures, you can mine minerals or find cities, ruins, crashed spaceships - now THAT's the sort of exploration I was waiting for! That's the thing I'd actually do in real life if I had the chance to! Here are some screenshots you might find interesting (click to enlarge):

Of course... graphically it's not really satisfying. But there are so many nice descriptions that really motivate your imagination so that you're able to imagine what it might look like if you were actually stamping through this strange terrain. When you scan the planet before you land you get informations like what gravity that planet has, what the surface consists of and so on. When then exploring the surface you get infos like "it's raining" or "it is hazy", so that you can imagine everything a lot better. Again: it's not perfect but a lot better than just static screens in tabular form, isn't it?

"Frontier - Elite II" also provides that great possibility - and this time in full 3D! Then again, the 3D aspect might not look as appealing to persons of this generation - as it's kept completely polygonal. And again, the aspect of imagination is important because naturally it'll never look like that in real life. But you get the idea! Take a glimpse at these (click to enlarge):

The best aspects about the universe in "Frontier" are:
1.) You've got a whole huge universe on two small disks (and I'm not talking about DVDs or CDs - it's really only two small 1-MB-3,5" disks)!
2.) The universe depicted in the game is absolutely true to the REAL universe out there! The real development on the game started back in 1988 and the game was eventually released in 1993!! Most of the time was spent for research and inquiries about the universe! The development team (most of all David Braben, the true creator of the "Elite" series) took all the information they could find about star systems and their locations and made a huge star map which is even acknowledged as true to the original universe. (Of course the regions that are unknown to humanity consist of planets that are merely made up and thus have randomly generated names, too.)
3.) Believe it or not: there are 100 billions (read: 100.000.000.000!!) star systems contained in the game, most of which have their own name and individual properties. There are systems with one and systems with many planets you can land on (except for gas giants). Even if you could see each planet in only a second, you could never see each one in your LIFE!!!

Here's a "small" version (2250 x 1819 px) of the
star map that was delivered with the game.
Please click to enlarge it in all its glory - it's amazing:

You might wanna scream right now. You have the words "There ARE some modern space simulations which feature the ability to land on planets!!" on your lips, haven't you? Well... you're right. There's almost always the possibility of landing - but once you're on the planet there's not much to explore. There are mainly the four aforementioned locations (often depicted by single static tabular screens). You never have the chance to actually SEE something of the planet! (Except for maybe "Privateer II: The Darkening" - but that doesn't really have that many planets to see. It's great that they're all different and the landing sequences and different locations are beautiful! But there's not much to actually explore because you've got to stick to the storyline mostly...)

Well, there IS a quite modern game in which you have the ability to land on planets and explore them in full 3D first person perspective glory. It's called "Parkan II" and apart from the fact that it crashes about 5 times per hour it's not too well made in other ways either. The only "lifeforms" you'll ever encounter on planets are stupid robots that instantly attack you and spit out some really ridiculously pathetic comments - I can't decide what's worst. Other than that there's not much to do on the planets themselves. I do admit that the planet surfaces look gorgeous...

...but there's really not much to do; you'll find yourself bored quite quickly, strolling around without purpose. The only place you can go is some trading outpost (which looks alike on EACH of the planets). So it's not really that interesting after all. What a letdown.

So I guess there's only one thing for me to do when yearning for space exploration: dig out the old disks, fire up the old Amiga 500 and wait for the long loading sequences to finish...

*sigh*

September 22, 2009

Neljäkymmentäkaksi

No, that's not gibberish, it's Finnish! (Even though it may sound like gibberish, I must admit.) By now, all the Finnish people out there will know exactly what this post is about; it's kind of a general post about life, the universe, 23:07... and everything!

Did you ever enter "the answer to life the universe and everything" in Google? This is what happens:

(Did you - by the way - use the Google calculator before? It's really great, also for conversions of currencies! Just type "10 US Dollars in Euro" and it will show you the result! Just thought I'd mention it as it's quite surprising how many people haven't heard about that.)

But in this blog entry I actually didn't want to start writing about that incomparably awesome novel series by that incomparably hilarious Douglas Adams (who'll - sure as hell - look down on us from some strange and incomprehensible afterlife-ish place while splitting his now non-existent sides with laughter about us not having a clue about life, the universe and everything)! Just one thing: if you haven't read "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy", "The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe", "Life, The Universe And Everything", "So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish" and "Mostly Harmless" yet: PERKELE!! (that's Finnish again) JUST WHAT EXACTLY DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING HERE, READING THIS MINDLESS LOAD OF CRAP?? GET OUT, BUY THE BOOKS AND WASTE YOUR TIME MORE THOUGHTFULLY, WILL YA??!

With that out of the way, let's get down to business here.

It's really hard to explain what "life", "the universe" and "everything" actually IS, so let's split this up into three seperate things and change the order a bit:

1.) The Universe: what it's made of
2.) Life: what it's really about
3.) Everything: what extraterrestrials would think of us

1.) The Universe: what it's made of

It seems that most people out there ignore the fact that the way our universe is "built" is really bizarre! I mean... what if you were to create a universe? Would you really think about burning balls with other balls (not burning, preferably) floating around them? With nothing but blackness between them? (Well... maybe you chose a black background instead of a white one because a white background just isn't that cool, just like in Windows Paint or something...)

But the real problem is thinking in bigger proportions! Space is huge! Vast! Let's quote Douglas Adams here: "you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space!"
I mean... just imagine the whole thing is infinite! That's a thing we humans just can't do: imagine something that's not limited in any way (except for maybe unlimited refills in a Subway's or something)! That's the invisible wall against which our minds regularly crash. Just like a fly that simply can't comprehend that there's a solid transparent material (like a window) one can't fly through and thus keeps smashing its tiny head to goo, we Humans always imagine a place with walls or cliffs or other restrictions. No matter how large something is - it definitely has to end somewhere!

So I guess we all agree that the construct of our universe might as well just be a construct of someone's imagination. Like a huge dream in which we all play a part. That's the theory of The Maya (not that people/culture called the maya, but that illusionary/universal thing of the same name - read THIS); it's like we all live in ONE dream of some creature - that's almost too easy an answer, isn't it? As lunatic and fucked up as this world is, this might be the only solution obvious enough to be true. Then again: what's death? Do we die because that one thingy which is dreaming all this crap is fed up with that one piece of the mosaic which is the person that dies? Who knows. But it's a funny thing to think that way! Even if it means that we're never gonna see the "real world" because we're just residents in a dream and thus don't even really exist.

2.) Life: what it's really about

So what exactly is life about? About politics? About career? Religion? - In my personal opinion that's exactly what life is NOT about. From a universal point of view (imagine yourself looking down on Earth from the outside): what does it matter whose "God"-figure is "superior"? What does it matter which politician is obliged to decide something? Who cares how much money your neighbour makes an hour? Or that you're still missing that very rare Pokémon in your collection or something?
You know what? There's only ONE SINGLE THING that actually counts:

Emotions.

Really, come to think about it, it all comes down to emotions. It's the only thing that counts. It's the source of all the little things that count: love, pleasure, the warm sun on your skin, music, a good book, that incomparable shiver you get when you suddenly remember a long forgotten toy from your childhood, the carefree laughter of a child. There's nothing else that really counts. Life is short. Even if you're one of those guys who believe in reincarnation you'll agree that the timespan of one lifetime is really short! So what should we concentrate on in our lives? Jep: the really important things. And not making that timespan even shorter for other individuals (i. e. killing people and other such uncomfortable things)!

Let's think about politics and all the worries we have about the country we live in. That's absolutely insignificant!! Imagine some thing in space which makes our planet drift out of it's normal course around the sun or something like that! Or the fabric of the Universe crumbling into bits for reasons unknown to us humans (because - and let's admit that - we don't know crap about the real consistence of the universe, let alone its purpose)! What do we have left then? What do we care about then? About ourselves and the ones we love, exactly.

3.) Everything: what extraterrestrials would think of us

I don't think that - if that universe-crumbling-occasion actually happens - anyone in those "suicide-bomber-countries" will think "goddamn it, we couldn't finish that war against our enemies" or anything like that in that last minutes of his life! So what's the purpose of our stupid conflicts on Earth?

"If I could fly high above the world, would I see a bunch of living dots spell the word 'stupidity'?"
("Stranger Than Fiction", Bad Religion)

Yep, that's the line that always comes to my mind when I imagine extraterrestrials (supposing they actually exist) watching us ass around pathetically.

Imagine this (transcription of an alien dialogue):

Gzrîa: "Hey, Nllè! Look at these creatures I found living on this small planet!"
Nllè: "Oh, Gzrîa, how many times have I told you not to care about those insignificant beings on the planets in this sector! Enough that you drew a face into the sands of that red planet right next to this one!"
Gzrîa: "I was bored. Anyways, have you seen their activities down there? It's the strangest behaviour I've ever seen! They're holding little sticks in their claws, putting them in one of their inhalation holes and thus producing blueish grey clouds that are poisonous! Who would do that?"
Nllè: "Oh, it's the Humans you're talking about! Yeah, rumours about this space sector say that Humans are quite sadistic, suicidal and masochistic. You know what they do to their dead?"
Gzrîa: "I don't know if I want to hear that..."

Nllè: "They dig up a hole in the ground and bury them in there to be eaten by the little creatures living underground. Nasty, isn't it?"
Gzrîa: "Those Humans really give me the creeps."
Nllè: "Oh, that's nothing!! They're actually producing video transmission material showing what they'd do to visitors from other space sectors - if they'd be stupid enough to land on their planet! You curious...?"
Gzrîa: "Well... let me see!"
Nllè: "HERE it is. 'Enjoy!'..."
Gzrîa: *makes a noise that's supposedly equivalent to a human 'gulp'*

(End of transcript.)

So I guess some might still wonder what that "23:07" I mentioned up there means! It's a simple, yet quite strange and funny thing. It's that specific time (11:07 PM for US citizens) which tends to pop up uninvited everywhere! Well, for me personally, that is.
You know when you look at your digital watch (makes you proud, your digital watch, doesn't it? :D) and find it funny that you're checking the time the exact same moment you've done the day before? If that happens it's not really strange because it may simply indicate that you've got a strict rhythm in your behavior - even in little habits such as checking the time.

But there were plenty of happenings that made me find this 23:07-thing absolutely strange. Not creepy because I think it's a cool thing, but strange. Here's one of those happenings I found really funny:
I was in the kitchen of my first girlfriend because she wanted to introduce me to her mother. It was about three o' clock in the afternoon and when we went back outside I took a quick glance at the time display on the microwave which said... of course... 23:07!
Another time I was getting ready to go to a party with my girlfriend and was quickly checking the time before we left for that party and the clock said 23:07. Not that spectacular. But when we arrived there, I couldn't help but notice the huge "23:07" that was displayed on the TV screen to which the Wii of that party host was connected. Again: not creepy or anything, just funny.

Those things happen to me all the time, so I started to joke around whether it's some kind of omen or something. Will the world end in the year 2307? And what do I care? I'll be long dead then!! Did something significant happen on March 2nd, '07 (or Febuary 3rd, '07)? I don't remember but I don't think so. Each year on the 23rd of July I'm waiting for something special to happen but it simply doesn't.

Guess that would be too easy, right, Universe??!

September 2, 2009

The second biggest blog entry I've ever seen!

Okay, first of all let me get the nostalgia stuff out of the way:

I am - like most people I know who like computer games - a huuuuuuge "Monkey Island" fan. The first "Monkey Island" game was the first adventure game I had; back when I had a 386 SX with 2 megs of RAM and 20 MHz.



Before that, I got to know "Murder On The Mississippi", then "Maniac Mansion" and then "Zak McKracken" - I played all of those on the Commodore 64 of a good friend, so I wasn't a complete stranger to graphic adventures with a SCUMM interface back then.

I remember sitting at home of another good friend watching him play through "The Secret Of Monkey Island" in two sessions together with that friend I mentioned above. So it was basically more like watching a funny adventure film in two parts on two evenings rather than playing a game because we "only" watched. It was an awesome experience nonetheless, of course. So later I got the game myself and really enjoyed it. (Probably mostly because I still remembered the solutions to most puzzles in the game, I must admit.) You might imagine the awesomeness of having an own comedic, piratey world to explore in form of a computer game at home.

That was 19 years ago.

Of course, I also got the sequels that were made. "Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge", the voodoo-soaked epic adventure with the weird and definitive ending which was so strangely glossed over (if not huggermuggered) about six years later by the long awaited, near-perfect and very moody comic extravaganza "The Curse Of Monkey Island". Apart from the fact that main (anti-)hero Guybrush Threepwood(, Mighty Pirate™) had apparently turned into a skinny beanpole and the whole epic plot from the predecessors were replaced by a story that resembled a comedy series feel like "oh fun! What will that droll evil LeChuck be up to next?", everything was just perfect. With the (again, long awaited) fourth part of the series, "Escape From Monkey Island", which came out another 3 years later, it got rather bland. The once so romantic and adventurous pirate world was replaced by some dull 3D environment that felt like an artificial tourist trap of the present day instead of a pirate-infested caribbean dream - with real estate brokers, Starbucks, desk job contracts and lawyers. Well, at least it still was relatively lively and full of detail and contained some recollections of places and persons of the first game, so it was sort of okay. If you were able to cope with the horrible keyboard controls, that is.

Now it's 2009. For 9 years nothing had happened in Guybrush's world. Then - suddenly! - three things happened. Firstly, I nearly got a heart attack when I read the headlines that secondly, there was a new "Monkey Island" underway and that thirdly, the first part of the series would get a remake by LucasArts themselves. Little did I know what all this would turn out to be...

Let's first turn to the remake of "Monkey Island 1", called "The Secret Of Monkey Island - Special Edition". It contains all-new comic graphics, speech that's done perfectly and the great soundtrack that's also been redone. "What more could you ask for?" you might ask.

Well... for starters, Guybrush's looks quite... erm... take getting used to a bit (the portrait you can see above is one of the better pictures you'll see in the game). With the rest of the character portraits (that were so magnificent in their original versions in 1990) it also varies a lot! Carla, the swordmaster was masterfully recreated as well as her acquaintance Smirk. The two guys they absolutely f*&ked up graphically are the two pirates in the Scumm Bar: Mancomb Seepgood and the other guy with the glass eye that's so afraid of LeChuck. Well... some people say they fit in that new style of graphics but in my personal opinion they look absolutely ridiculous. In their original portraits you could take them serious, you could imagine they're real pirates. In their new versions they look like retarded fools, nothing more. This new graphical character design is a shame - because the locations in the game are breathtakingly beautiful!!

Thus, it's a good thing you can change from new graphics to old graphics in an instant by pressing a button, of course! But that doesn't make the new style of graphics any better, does it? Oh, and they messed up the controls, too... with an emphasis on changing between keyboard and mouse control it gets unneccessarily difficult. Anyone ever tried freeing Otis with these controls? Another thing which in my opinion sucks a lot is the fact that as soon as you change to the old graphic style you don't hear any speech anymore. I can understand that it changes the background music to the old style but the speech should have been there anyway! Why didn't they implement an option where you can turn it on and off? Would have been the best way if you ask me.

Oh well, let's stop hanging around in the past and let's see what the NEW stuff is like! Telltale Games, the ones that already gave us the great episodic "Sam & Max"-series now makes a new series called:
Until now, there are two episodes out already (yeah, it's episodic, too, following a monthly schedule), called "Launch Of The Screaming Narwhal" and "The Siege Of Spinner Cay". I've played through the first one and I'm right in the middle of the second one. Which actually is the reason I started this (huge) blog entry in the first place.

In the past few weeks Telltale Games began spreading the word that "Tales Of Monkey Island" is their best selling game series of all time - like that's some kind of achievement! Yeah right guys! No matter what other company would have made a new "Monkey Island" game - it would have sold JUST AS MANY COPIES AS YOU!! 'Cause it's a "Monkey Island" game! It's a game each and every adventure gamer has been waiting for in the past 9 (read: NINE!!) YEARS! Just what did you think would happen??! Each time the topic "graphic adventure" is mentioned in a conversation anywhere in the world, the next words that come up are "Monkey Island", sure thing!

Bad things first: the new "Monkey Island" is in 3D (am I imagining things or did I actually hear some fans yelping in frustration again...?) with some surprisingly empty locations, (senselessly) horrible controls and really sparse dialogue. The worst thing about the controls is that you navigate Guybrush via the WASD-keys on the keyboard or (if you really feel like you need the extra frustration) you hold the right mouse button to make guybrush run and turn some tiny compass that's to be seen around him with the mouse to specify the direction - you can see that (really thin) circle with the arrow around Guybrush in the picture on the left. That simply sucks. It is beyond me why Telltale didn't use a simple point & click interface! Or... as the Angry Video Game Nerd would put it... "what were they thinking??" Sometimes I think they used these controls to hide the fact that there are too few things to click on (that's what I've been talking about above by mentioning the "surprisingly empty locations"). If they had used a point & click interface it might have been too obvious that there's actually not much to point and click on!

And as there's not much to see, there's not much to say either. Remember the huge amount of funny lines, all the hilarious dialogue from Monkey Island 3 and 4? I've played through those two games quite some times (German and English versions) - and still I know I haven't heard all of the countless contained comedic comments! Now, "Tales" may leave you sore as there are roughly five short lines to choose from in each dialogue with a character and as soon as you've clicked them you'll recognize that there aren't any more! They just repeat all over again! Also, Guybrush doesn't seem half as funny as in the previous parts! In Monkey 4 he always had a funny (and senseless, most of the time) comment to say between two sentences. Well, not anymore. Just keep that in mind when you buy "Tales", so that you aren't that unpleasantly surprised later on.

And did I mention that Guybrush - again! - looks quite strange? In my opinion his face is a lot too long and the emphasis on his cheekbones looks unpretty. I liked Guybrush most in Monkey Island 2 (in-game) and Monkey Island 4 (on the boxart). Then again, that's a matter of taste, too...
Well... as soon as you're actually IN the game you'll recognize that it's an experience you want to make anyway! Wanna know why that is?

"Tales Of Monkey Island" has some brilliant voice acting (featuring the original voice actor for Guybrush: Dominic Armato, who REALLY did a great job), an awesome soundtrack, nice puzzles and an interesting plot. In fact the plot is so interesting - I wish they had done something like that earlier on in a 2D-game!! On the other hand it already seems quite a bit predictable how it all will turn out.

How it will turn out exactly? I guess we'll have to wait another 4 months for that - until the last of the six episodes will be released. I'll launch ScummVM now and play a bit of "LeChuck's Revenge" again... now where did I leave that bottle o' near-grog again...

August 25, 2009

Down in space it's always 1982

There are a lot of people out there wondering what this strange lyric from David Bowie's song "Slip Away" (from the album "Heathen", 2002) actually means. I don't. I simply love it. Not least because I tend to connect David Bowie with the breathtaking BBC-TV series "Life On Mars" (and "Ashes To Ashes"). Based on this, I made myself a rather thoughtful David Bowie best of CD which I named
"In Your Head It's Always 1973".

While I share my girlfriends aversion to the style of clothing and make-up of Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie as a person strikes me with awe - not in the frightening but the admiring sense! I often wonder why that is because frankly, I don't have a clue. It's not like he's really some guy from space as his Ziggy character intended to suggest. And after reading the great Bowie-biography written by Christopher Sandford I validated the thought that he's just some guy who makes great music. So nothing to be particularly excited about.

I guess I do know how that came to be. To my disgrace I must admit that I started listening to David Bowie because of the (breathtakingly fantastic) computer game "Omikron - The Nomad Soul" which started with the Bowie song "New Angels Of Promise" (in a somewhat changed version than the album version) and starred Bowie as a character in the game, too. As it's a game taking place in a futuristic dystopian parallel dimension, I instantly connected David Bowie's brilliant vocals to the science fiction genre. Not only that! Bowie seemed to sing out of a futuristic parallel dimension! Now, isn't that some way to start creating a mystical image of a person that's basically just a simple man who sings songs...?

So how did I continue with the myth that is Bowie? If I were to believe in fate I would probably call it that. Let's just say it was the Universe that made my next "encounter" with Bowie equally parallel-dimension-ish. "Life On Mars", anyone? The BBC TV series, not the song. I mean... of course, it's the song that connects the TV series to Bowie again. And that's how I "encountered" Bowie again. Let's see...

"My name is Sam Tyler. I had an accident and I woke up in 1973. Am I mad? In a coma? Or back in time? Whatever's happened - it's like I've landed on a different planet. Now maybe if I can work out the reason, I can get home."

It's that quite theatrical song "Life On Mars?" from the legendary "Hunky Dory" album (from 1971) Sam listens to on his iPod in the car when he has that accident. When waking up in 1973, he also hears that song - from an old tape player in the old 70s car he wakes up next to. So it's that song which accompanied Sam during his travel through the dimensions (if you want to call it that).

But still! Why is David Bowie that mystical to me? I mean, I do understand it's both just fiction, the old computer game and that TV series. It's brilliant fiction but merely that, nothing that has anything to do with reality.

Maybe it's because David Bowie himself is a connection between those two worlds. Between the real 1973 and the present day because fortunately he's still alive and kickin'! You could say "my grandpa's also a connection between 1973 and 2009, why don't you go and adore everyone that age?". But David Bowie wasn't a normal guy back then. And he wasn't only a big star! David Bowie was a huge idol and icon of a whole generation! A significant universal milestone of that decade.


For Sam Tyler in "Life On Mars" the world of 1973 is just the world of his imagination as he's merely in a coma in 2006 imagining the whole 1973-thing. (Which isn't a spoiler now, don't worry. That becomes clear almost directly in the first episode of the series.) But how this world comes to exist, no one knows. Can it really be sheer imagination? Or is that comatose world more than just a vivid dream? Is it some other dimension? Where does our mind go when we dream anyway? Some place far away in space? And does time pass there like it does on Earth? "Down in space it's always 1982..." Hmm... 1982... the year I was born. Maybe I'd go there instead of 1973 if I were to be invovled in an accident and my mind got catapulted back... (I could start with something called "The Maya" now, but I won't. It would be too much for one simple blog, I guess...)

Nowadays I have almost each Bowie CD at home; most of his songs have something special in them - they aren't just rock/pop songs, they always have that tiny bit that makes them special. Though I'm worrying about him quite much as he's 62 years old and I haven't heard much from him lately. His last appearance was in the film "Prestige" in 2006, the same year in which he re-recorded the Pink Floyd song "Arnold Layne" together with David Gilmour. But the latest Bowie album "Reality" came out in 2003 so it's about time!! Here's the latest picture I could find, it's from the Sundance Film Festival in January 2009. He does look rather healthy so I'm relieved for now...

The Sam Tyler from the (quite crappy) US version of the series "Life On Mars" sais in the last episode: "David Bowie... why does everything always come down to David Bowie?" For me it's fun imagining David Bowie being some supernatural connection between dimensions instead of just human. Real life's so damn boring, isn't it?