Thursday, May 7, 2015
Things are immediately and consistently pleasing, with the first half establishing the various shades Haven employs. "Fallen Star" and "Veil of Elysium" both showcase a melodic-on-melancholic angle that will be familiar to longtime fans. However, what makes these (and all other) moments on Haven feel fresh in their familiarity is the fact Kamelot haven't sounded this comfortable and lively for a long time. Silverthorn didn't necessarily lack high points, but it had an overall compressed feeling, like it had a restraining order. Haven isn't so hindered, which primarily shows thanks to the production, this time realizing and enhancing Kamelot's long-lost vigor. No one will claim Haven as the next Black Halo (or even Epica), but this is easily the catchiest Kamelot have been in over a decade.
Take the intoxicating "Insomnia," for instance; first impressions are modest, but it quickly turns into a repeat button's newfound lover. This is also one of the album's heavier moments, alongside the frantic "Revolution" and crescendoing "Liar Liar (Wasteland Monarchy)." A similar structure adorns "Under Grey Skies," one of two included ballads, which is key to its benefit. Another factor is the expected inclusion of female vocals (this time Charlotte Wessels of Delain) and a subtle contribution from Troy Donockley (Nightwish). Silverthorn's "Song for Jolee," by comparison, was a troublesome drag comparable to waiting in line at an amusement park.
Less emphasized, however, is the air of progression Silverthorn neared suggesting for the future. "Citizen Zero" rings similar to "Prodigal Son" with its dark atmosphere and stiffly played chorus. It reminds us of Silverthorn's burdening shortcomings, all while pointing to Poetry for the Poisoned's grievances. Some listener's may appreciate it after multiple listens, yet both exemplify a lack of instant gratification that Kamelot are routinely known for. There's potential in running with a more challenging sound and structure, but at this point it'd be at the expense of numerous fans.
This brings us to the predicament Haven sees Kamelot in as a whole: a lack of evolution. Improvements to the production (highs have room to shine again) and a subsequent sense of freedom are welcome, but these are mere spices sprinkled atop an undercooked steak. Silverthorn wasn't a "fun" album in the way Khan-era Kamelot was, but there was always a lingering sense of newfound ambition. Haven, conversely, favors tradition, which leads to many enjoyable moments, yet they typically flatten out when viewed objectively.
The biggest pressing concern for Kamelot has become how much staying power they'll have if they continue their current path. Silverthorn saw them tiptoe into a different-yet-familiar body of water; Haven demonstrates that they've regained comfort, now they just need to find the current and glide with it in grace.
Saturday, May 2, 2015
Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World were essentially blips on an otherwise crystal-sharp radar, primarily thanks to Captain America: The Winter Solder and last year's little surprise, Guardians of the Galaxy. Subsequently, audiences are approaching the next Avengers installment, Age of Ultron, with hype rushing aplenty. Can the grandeur and memorability of Marvel's collective greatest be recaptured--even surpassed, or has a wall suddenly protruded before the rushing current?
Age of Ultron goes utterly gung-ho from the get-go. Action is the first card of choice, showcasing each player we've come to know and love. Forgo, however, is a single attempt to cover loose ends between the last Marvel installments and this--you'll wonder where to start. Comic book fans may be less confused, but all others are like to be as lost as Thor in his cinematic debut. From there, the story struggles to trickle its way to a cohesive introduction, making it immediately clear where the priorities (didn't) rest. Essentially, Tony Stark creates an advanced AI (Ultron) intending to protect the world and prevent a grim vision from seeing fruition. Sounds simple, but since this is Hollywood, things go bad…fast. James Spader is the man behind Marvel's latest baddie, and what's surprising is the level of sarcasm instilled in his character. The more you listen to him, the more you see him as a spitting shadow of Tony Stark. In fact, he acts more like the Tony we've come to enjoy than Tony himself, who has far fewer low-blow remarks than before.
All of this may sound par for the course, but Age of Ultron plays out in such a way that you feel a need to pay attention. Then, when you comprehend what's going on, you often find it's sillily joke-riddled. It may sound counterintuitive, but Age of Ultron demands attentiveness while begging we don't think too critically all the while. For instance, two characters show a sporadic connection, and while the play-up is fun and cute, the moment one throws thought into the mix (considering previous Marvel projects), the entire scenario just doesn't mesh. What's more is we get a formal introduction of sorts to Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, but saying they're introduced is like saying Hawkeye was fully fleshed out in the first Avengers. But don't worry, he gets the majority of individual character development here.
Friday, April 3, 2015
Or so it would've been.
If there's a pervasive break in Furious 7's chain, it's actually the characters and their overall charisma. Furious 7 favors comedy to drama, which is fortunate, since these moments trump the dramatic slumps at every turn. Laughs are completely silly and utterly stupid--probably more so than the action, but that's also the fun and charm. When Furious 7 does take a lightly dramatic turn, it's never with a sliver of compelling air. Acting across the board is minimal, seldom of non-comedic enjoyment, even from typecast extraordinaire Jason Statham. As a result, the film struggles to effectively convey what heart and emotion the previous six built to. One saving grace does come from the very last shot, however, serving as an appropriate sendoff for Paul Walker. There's a simple yet beautiful honor to this final moment, one that will move fans who've stuck with the franchise since day one.
Monday, February 16, 2015
My scant pitch for the plot stems from the apparent laziness of the Wachoskis, since we're never properly cued in to the lore. Scenes play out with an air of presumption, as if we're already versed in the drab, egregious backstory. Characters passively spit monikers out left and right, making the story and plot feel like a football when the crew (players) thought they were playing basketball the whole time.
Despite these blunders, the most appalling crime of Jupiter Ascending is its inability to entertain, even on a guilty pleasure level. The two-hour runtime would be better served as an overdue nap, which the movie just might accomplish for you. Forgettable and frustratingly dull, Jupiter Ascending makes but one more case against the Wachowskis, suggesting that The Matrix was either a fluke or realized by other, more capable minds.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
A Red Velvet Oreo sounds like it would be a long time coming, considering the terrain Nabisco have ventured into with each iteration. This particular offering features wafers enhanced with red food coloring and cream cheese flavored creme. The presence of both is immediately noticeable; the wafers are a tried-and-true color while the creme has light, butter-yellow hue that gives these a spiritual, distinguishable appearance. When you open the package, a definite cocoa aroma pours out, though not the extent of say, 2013's Gingerbread Oreos.
Reese Oreos, yet I'll savor every malnourishing slip-up