Middenheim

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Logo design by ‘Lord of the Logos’ Christophe Szpajdel

No, not the city of Middenheim in the province of Middenland from Warhammer, this post is instead going to be about black metal band Middenheim who were from Peterborough in the UK.

According to metal-archives.com, Middenheim were active between 2007 and 2010 and at some stage during their short run as an active band changed their name to Middenhelm (I assume to avoid potential copyright issues with Games Workshop).

 

Middenheim were:

Arkhan – Bass

Arkheon – Keyboard

Lord Nagash – Vocals

Malekith – Guitar, Drum programming

Count Zanamere – Guitar

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I’ve had a copy of their demo ‘Tempero Haud Moratlis’ sat in my collection since 2008, I suspect I may have traded a copy of the Nebular Frost demo/rehearsal compilation for it as I used to interact with the band occasionally back in the myspace days.

Simple yet effective packaging for a demo

There are three tracks on this demo, packaged in a glossy paper sleeve with a lyrics sheet. The first track is ‘Catacombs of the Ice King’. This is followed by an instrumental track named ‘A Time of Sorrow’ and the disc ends with ‘Baroden’s Blood Oath’. From what I can remember this is a pretty decent sounding little demo, leaning towards the melodic side of the black metal genre. I’m going by memory because the CD has decided it wants to be a coaster, as it won’t play in any device I own (I’ve tried it on my laptop, my girlfriends mac book, my hi-fi CD deck, and also the little hi-fi we keep in the kitchen. Nothing can read it). However, their myspace page still has tracks uploaded to it, hurrah!

There are a couple of rough demos up here, as well as a couple of tracks from the coaster I possess, and one track that looks to be from another demo from 2007. The first rough demo track ‘Sacrificial War Offering’ does sound pretty rough, but in a genre that was built upon rough production it doesn’t really have much of an impact on the listening experience. The guitar sounds a bit weak at times and the ambient introduction goes on for a bit too long, but otherwise it’s somewhat reminiscent of pre-Midian era Cradle of Filth. No where near as bombastic though in its demo form, but with some decent mixing and mastering this could definitely come close.

Streaming on myspace seems to be a bit shit this evening, so I’m skipping over ‘Avengers of Forochel’ as it refuses to start playing. ‘Catacombs of the Ice King’ however kicks in without issue, and a brief keyboard introduction starts the song off. Again, this reminds me of early Cradle of Filth. The drums have a solid punch throughout this song driving everything forward, while the keyboard floats along in the background adding that gothic and catacomb-like wintery atmosphere. A strong song, worthy of a stronger mixing and mastering job.

Baroden’s Blood Oath’ begins rather abruptly, I imagine due to the preceding instrumental track leading into it with some build up. This track strikes a balance between slow and murky atmosphere, and then well placed thrash attacks with suitable guitar solo’ing. It has me nodding my head, which is always a positive sign. The pace is changing enough that it remains coherent but it makes sure you pay attention to what’s going on via stomping riffs intermixed with technical keyboard hooks. Unfortunately it just ends without much fanfare, it felt as though it was building towards another solo or thrash section, but instead the band chose to fade the song to a close leaving you wanting more.

Judging from the tracks available on their myspace page, Middenheim were a pretty solid melodic black metal band. It’s unfortunate that these tracks never saw a fully realised release, as with some improved mixing and mastering they could have put out an album that would have been very well received. I’m a bit pissed off about the fact that my copy of ‘Tempero Haud Moratlis’ has declared itself to now be a coaster. I had planned to upload the tracks to YouTube. But hey, extra coasters are always useful.

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Shit Graffiti #1

I like taking photographs of shit graffiti.

This series will show those off. Most of them end up on my Instagram as well, because filters. I generally avoid photographing tags though as they’re often just shit without merit and usually aren’t worth documenting. Feel free to prove me wrong though!

The first piece I’d like to exhibit is a bit different to your usual graffiti, as it negates the use of spray paint and instead takes the form of poorly constructed words on an address sized sticky label. Looks to be written with a sharpie. This was found on Saturday March 25th 2017 whilst I was walking into town:

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Dont eat vedge

Save the trees .

That’s some sound advice there, use it well.

(read in a Plymouth accent for full effect)

Shuffling the tunes, Episode 1

For this series of posts I am going to be writing a piece on an album from my digital music collection. Over the years I’ve amassed what I consider to be quite a substantial amount of music on the hard drive of my laptop; curated from sources such as CDs that I have purchased, records that I have converted into mp3 (mostly for listening to on the go), CDs that have been borrowed from friends or family, digital downloads from websites such as Bandcamp, and as well as from the time I lived in a shared house with an active iTunes home share setup. There are still a lot of records in my collection that haven’t yet been converted into mp3 and I’m sure there are probably some CDs that I still haven’t ripped yet either, so this series of posts won’t be covering my entire music collection (unless I somehow find the time to convert ~200 records into mp3..)

Rather than cherry picking what I’m going to write about, I shall be sticking iTunes on shuffle and going with whatever album it lands on first…

So for Episode 1 of Shuffling the Tunes we have:

black sabbath

Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath, 1970

What a way to kick this off. Black Sabbath are by far my favourite band of all time and I own all of their studio albums either on vinyl and/or CD. The version that I’m listening to whilst typing this post is a rip of the 2004 Sanctuary CD release, although I also have a copy on vinyl that technically belongs to my Dad, but he’s let me keep hold of it after spending a year or so babysitting his record collection (along with the remaining Ozzy era studio albums, apart from Paranoid, that one neither of us own on vinyl yet).

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The first time I heard this record was probably in 2003, I was in my mid-teens and had recently started getting into older music as a response to not being interested in whatever Kerrang! were writing about, and having a few older friends who were also into the likes of Deep Purple, Rainbow, The Doors, Iron Maiden, Metallica etc.. guiding me on a journey of musical discovery. I was also shifting away from listening to mostly ‘nu-metal’ and slowly exploring the realm of Heavy Metal and it’s many, many sub-genres.

I had a hi-fi in my room that had a basic turntable on top of it, one of those all-in-one machines that served me very well through these years. I remember coming home from school one day and Dad had pulled a selection of records out for me to listen to, and this album was the one I played first.

I knew of Black Sabbath and like many, had heard the track ‘Paranoid’ before anything else, courtesy of the Protect the Innocent compilation CD that my Dad owns

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There are some other tracks on here that I remember really well, like ‘Goddess’ by Acid Reign, ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’ by Anthrax and ‘The Ultimate Sin’ by Ozzy. It’s a pretty solid compilation and easily available on Discogs for a few quid.

I’d been playing bass guitar for about a year by the time I got into this album, and would routinely study tabs of Black Sabbath songs trying my best to emulate the playing style of Geezer Butler. The way he hits those strings with his fingers has had an enormous influence on how I play bass. I remember dropping the stylus down just as ‘Sleeping Village’ would start and would jam along as it progressed into ‘Warning’. ‘N.I.B’ was such a stand out track to me that I chose to cover it for a piece of my Music Technology coursework. I eventually bought myself a multi-effects pedal just so I could have a crack at playing the bass intro to ‘N.I.B’ with the wah-wah turned on, and to add some distortion so I could try and achieve that Geezer Butler sound.

Black Sabbath has been my go-to record for testing new hi-fi equipment. It was the first record to be played through my new speakers, the first to get a spin when I upgraded my stylus and cartridge, and also the first to be cranked up when I bought a new amp. The title track is simply perfect for being played as loud as possible. Actually, the whole album is perfect for being played as loud as possible. So do it. Often.

Curve Digital games

I’ve been trying my best for quite some time now to work through the pile of un-played video games that I have sat on my shelf, aiming to decrease the size of the pile rather than add to it. Progress has been going quite well and I’ve also been working through the digital games that are sat on various devices that exist underneath my TV. Almost all of these games were bought on sale or from trading other games in at my local CeX. Rarely do I buy games at full price, but I will buy new if a sale is on.

To put this into context some more; during the summer of last year (2016) I finally got around to playing Resident Evil 4: Wii edition. This is a game that had been sat in the pile since the summer of 2012, and I think it had been there the longest. One reason it took so long to get round to it was I’d already played the PS2 version a couple of times, and had only really bought the Wii edition for the novelty of pointer controls and because I’d heard it played quite well with them. Which it did, mostly. Now that I think about it (and from having a quick glance up at the notorious un-played pile), the game that currently holds the record of being sat on the shelf the longest is Resident Evil: Deadly Silence which I think I bought sometime during 2016.

Enough about what Resident Evil games I have sat on my shelf, time to actually waffle about some recently played games…

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The Swapper, WiiU

This was a real pleasure to play through, purchased when the developer Curve Digital had an absurdly good sale on their games (I also bought Stealth Inc. 2, Nova-111 and Lone Survivor: Director’s Cut) and they were all less than £1 each. The basic premise has you exploring a space station, undertaking a variety of puzzles that involve you ‘swapping’ with another version of yourself. You receive a cloning device that allows you to do these swaps, and can create up to four clones of yourself as the game progresses.

Puzzles are predominantly physics based and require you to use your clones to press buttons to open doors, climb up to higher ledges, endure shifts in gravity, and to navigate around certain coloured lights that affect where you can place a clone. The atmosphere is pretty bleak and there’s a real sense of loneliness as you explore and progress through the space station. As you’d expect for a game set in the depths of space the soundtrack is suitably minimalist, leaning heavily on long droning notes, atmospheric sounds and somber piano melodies. It’s fantastic and can be listened to in full here (make sure you’ve got your headphones on!)

The levels are made using clay and the handcrafted style looks amazing, creating a very dark and moody feeling. The bonus of playing on the WiiU is having the map on the gamepad screen, as well as the various documents that you pick up can be read here too. I liked how this added to the science-fiction genre that the game fits into, making the gamepad feel like an item that your character had found containing useful information to use.

The Swapper is a relatively short game, and the puzzles aren’t too obtuse although I did get a bit stumped during one section and ended up having to check a walkthrough on YouTube. I did write a bit further up that I rarely buy games at full price, and I was pretty bummed to miss out on getting a physical copy of this when Limited Run Games did a print a short while ago. I was aiming for a Vita copy, but unfortunately missed out. This is a game that I would love to have on my shelf, but it has evaded me for now.

I highly recommend this game, especially on the WiiU but I believe it’s also available on PS4/Vita/Steam.

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Nova-111 and Stealth Inc.2: A Game of Clones, WiiU

These are another two games I bought and downloaded onto my WiiU during the previously mentioned Curve Digital sale. I didn’t finish either of these games. I was enjoying Nova-111 and it’s puzzle based levels involving movement between squares that affects everything else around you, so nothing else moves except for when you do. However the later levels incorporated fire, and I started to find the movement frustrating and a bit tedious. I don’t think I was that far from the end, but it irritated me to the point of quitting. Maybe I’ll go back to it.

Stealth Inc. 2…I can’t really remember why I quit this game. It started out well enough, but I suspect that the stealth-based puzzles got the better of me. Again, I may very well go back to this in the future and see if I can progress.

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Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut, WiiU

And now the last game I got from the Curve Digital sale. It’s also quite possibly my favourite of the four, slightly nudging The Swapper from the top spot. Caddicarus has described this game as being like playing a 2D Silent Hill game, and I completely agree. The atmosphere is oppressive and eerie, the combat is clunky and slow, resources are sparse and require you to manage them carefully, the soundtrack is dark, ominous and brooding, and the monsters are weird and unpleasant just like they are in Silent Hill.

The graphical style of the game really adds to the bleak and miserable atmosphere as you navigate the ‘Lone Survivor’ around solving puzzles and learning more about the story. Your character wears a mask on his face, which for a while I kept seeing as him instead having this massive maniacal grin on his face. Seeing him this way adds another layer of intrigue as to why he would be grinning like that in such a dire situation.

There are numerous characters that you can interact with that depending on who you go and see most, will affect the ending you receive. Your character has to eat and sleep, and this has somewhat of an impact on how the game progresses. As the game is quite short, multiple playthroughs should be easily achieved (again, a similarity to Silent Hill). The WiiU version has no specific gamepad functionality as you see the same thing on both the gamepad and the TV. Playing this using the off-TV feature with a pair of headphones is absolutely worth doing at least once, although I imagine this would be similar to playing on the PS Vita.

Limited Run Games also produced a batch of physical copies of this game for PS4 and Vita recently, and once again I missed out on securing a copy (again, I wanted a Vita copy). However I’m happy to have this sat on my WiiU and highly recommend getting a copy as it’s available on pretty much all current systems.

Cheers.

Tapes Tapes Tapes

Tapes.

Cassettes?

Tapes?

Cassette tapes?

Who cares.

(tapes)

I’ve been listening to a lot of tapes recently. My Dad handed me an enormous bag of the bloody things a few years ago and since then I’ve been slowly working my way through them (good thing he also gave me his tape deck!). A fair number of them had no identifying label on, so working out what they were was mostly a fun experience. Being able to type some lyrics into Google and get answers that way is a massive convenience, so +1 for the internet being useful. Others were simply labelled with the band name, so quite a few tapes just said Ozzy, a couple said Pink Floyd (both of the Pink Floyd tapes labelled like this turned out to be The Division Bell), and one was just Judas Priest which turned out to have quite the excellent selection of songs on it:

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I’m a lefty and chose the worst kind of pen to use when writing on glossy tape paper, luckily I managed this with only a few minor smudges!

One tape had a promising selection of writing on it’s label, showing tracks by Carter USM, Siouxie and the Banshees, and Nine Inch Nails, but when I opened the case to pop the tape in Side A was labelled U2 and Side B was Phil Collins. So that tape went back in the bag.

A couple of tapes have brought back memories of being a child, hearing music that I’ve not listened to for at least fifteen years or more which I would have previously heard on long car journeys. One tape in particular has what I think is the first album by Eddi Reader on it. Both of my parents are fond of her music and as a result I became quite fond of it too. Hearing Patience of Angels, Scarecrow and Joke (I’m Laughing) again took me back in time with a smile on my face.

The tape deck that I use is a Technics RS BX-501, and it has seemingly has a personality of it’s own – it won’t play tapes ‘forwards’. Now, lucky for me this deck does reverse play, so this isn’t much of an issue it just means I need to remember to play the reel from right to left, rather than left to right. So basically I have to play tapes backwards, which often results in hearing Side B first as I usually can’t be arsed rewinding/fast-forwarding to get Side A to play first. This also means that I can’t use the ‘auto reverse’ function, and still have to get up and flip the tape when required. I run this deck through an Onkyo A9010 amp and a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 9.0 speakers, so the majority of them still sound fine to me.

In regards to buying new tapes, this is something that I’ve done only occasionally since I started buying music as a teenager. CDs and vinyl are my main choices when it comes to buying physical media, however in recent months a couple of bands that I like announced on their respective Facebook pages that they only had a few copies left of their most recent releases on tape, so I decided to get a copy of both:

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Both Saor and My Silent Wake are excellent bands, go have a listen to them if you haven’t heard them before. Saor are Scottish Black Metal and My Silent Wake are a Doom band from the South West of England (my old band gigged with them a couple of times back in the day, they never seem to make it down to Plymouth though so I haven’t seen them live for ages). Another reason for the recent interest in buying tapes is being one of the lucky folk who received the promo tape with the new Darkthrone release on vinyl, I think it was a random bonus for those who pre-ordered the orange record.

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I think I see buying tapes on a similar plane as buying 7” singles – usually I wouldn’t bother, but if it’s from a band that I quite like, or if it’s something that I don’t already own that I happen to stumble across in a charity shop or at a record fair for less than £2 then I’ll probably pick it up. The diversity of my physical music collection pleases me, and as I have the equipment to play them I may as well grab a few as I go along.

Cheers.

Greetings

Hello!

If you have somehow stumbled onto here already, you’ll see that there isn’t exactly much here at the moment. That’s because I am in the process of setting everything up, and migrating posts across from my previous location.

If you’re interested in posts relating to music, video games, photography, art, and anything else in a similar vein please add me to your bookmarks and pop back again soon.

Cheers.