Friday, February 28, 2014
Is this late? Yes. Is it way late? Yes. Is it so late that nobody will be able to buy these games anymore because I waited too long? No, which is why it's still cool to make this. Plus, of course, it's my blog and I like lists so I'm going to list whatever I want.
Those of you who have read the list I posted back in August of my favorite indie games will see a few repeats here. You'll also see a few games that I would add to that list if I were writing it today, and you'll see a few games that have risen or fallen in my estimation since that time.
Those of you who have not read that post will not notice those things, unless you elect now to go look for it and read it just so you can come back here and then recognize the things I just mentioned. I'm not sure if that's a worthwhile use of your time, but I'm certainly not going to tell people to avoid reading things I've written in my blog.
Also, before you read on, you should know that while Rogue Legacy, Gone Home, and Kentucky Route Zero do not appear on my list, they are by nearly universal critical consensus some of the year's very best releases.
Anyway, here is my belated list of the top 10 indie games released in 2013:
Monday, February 24, 2014
What I'm not so sure I've mentioned is that I really love a lot of the chip music that accompanies those games. Organ Trail in particular had truly compelling music that set the mood for the game perfectly. It's a fusion of the old 80s' video game style chip music with little splashes of more standard instrumentation, and it is somehow equal parts darkly brooding and infectiously catchy. Ben Crossbones really put together something special in my opinion, as it is largely his music that elevates the entire affair from merely an amusing gimmick to the level of being a truly worthy game in its own right.
Well, I didn't realize this when I bought the game, but there's actually an independently available full official soundtrack. I know this isn't exactly in the style that I usually discuss on this blog, but if you have any interest in hearing some excellent, gloomy, compelling chip music then take a few minutes to give this a listen.
You can find the full album on Ben Crossbones' Bandcamp here.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
I thought I was going to miss the show due to work, and I did in fact miss four of the five bands playing, but I arrived at the venue just in time for Dark Tranquillity. I've been aching to watch them live for years, and I was not disappointed. They put on an excellent show in a very small venue (even with my late arrival I was only about 20 feet from the stage) and afterward Mikael came down to hang out and talk to people. He really was the highlight of seeing them; whenever a frontman can perform with energy and enthusiasm it always heightens the show, and he really seemed like he was having a good time on stage.They performed without bass (on albums their bass is played by one of their guitarists) but given how low the bass typically is in metal anyway its absence was barely noticeable.
With this show under my belt, the two bands left at the top of my bucket list are Metallica and Iron Maiden. Hopefully by the end of the year I'll be in need of a new group of bands to see.
p.s. I stole this photo from a friend who was also in attendance.
Monday, February 17, 2014
When I was in college, I took a class on the history of rock. I pretty much cruised through it, since I love digging into music and I grew up on blues and oldies. It was kind of like a Mexican taking Spanish 101, but I found the professor entertaining and it was a good excuse to listen to music and call it "doing homework". One of our few major assignments in the class was to write a paper detailing who we would want to be (and why) if we could have been any one person from the history of rock music or one of its branches. It sounds like a 2nd grade assignment, and truth be told it kind of was, but I nonetheless took the question very seriously. My answer was Quorthon. I've made no secret that his group, Bathory, is one of my favorite metal bands. I wish I had a copy of that actual paper available to post or link here, because I gave an earnest and thoughtful explanation of how deeply this man's music has touched me and how connected I feel to him when I hear it. No other figure in the metal world has ever bared his soul so clearly to my ears, which makes listening to Bathory a profoundly emotional experience for me. I realize that may sound a little hokey, but it's how I feel.
Even beyond the brilliant, passionate work he did himself, Quorthon's impact on my own musical world is massive. Half of the other bands I listen to and enjoy today would probably not exist without his influence. All of Norwegian black metal is, by the admission of some of its greatest purveyors, basically just a slightly-altered imitation of Bathory's classic Under the Sign of the Black Mark. Viking metal, whether you believe that it is an independent sub-genre or not, owes its existence entirely to Quorthon's work with Bathory. Few people can claim to have pioneered a new style of music, but Quorthon pioneered two.
Those of us who spend a good deal of our time and energy in the music world tend to have our own musical heroes. This is true in all genres, though it seems to me that metal fans often feel especially connected to the bands they enjoy. For some people, Rob Halford is the ultimate metal god. For others it's Dio, or Iommi, or Hanneman, or any one of the gifted musicians who have changed the face of that delightfully dark music we share and love. We all have our metal heroes, and Quorthon is mine.
Happy birthday Thomas Forsberg, and thanks for everything.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
I am, when it comes down to it, a sucker for Middle Eastern influences in my metal. I love the style and flavor of northern Europe, but the relative scarcity of good metal from the Middle East makes such music something of a special treat. With that in mind, I really enjoyed the instrumental side of this album. Mellower passages, regional folk melodies, and regional folk instrumentation all blend in with an almost perfect balance against the harsher black metal elements. There are times when it feels like some of the performances could be a bit tighter, but by and large it all sounds very good. If I were grading this album purely on the style and quality of the instrumental performances, I'd probably give it an A- or so.
. . . but . . .
The single, overwhelming issue I have with this record is the vocals. For one thing, the actual recording quality of the vocals is often strangely out of place, as at times it feels like the band recorded finished songs in a studio and then tacked on demo vocals. It's not the poor recording quality that's the problem, it's the fact that the recording quality is inconsistent (sometimes the vocals sound fine) and largely mismatched with the rest of the music. Even beyond that issue, I think I'd have a tough time digesting the vocal performance anyway. The weird, quavering, effects-driven bellows come across as being kind of love-them-or-hate-them, and while further digesting time may change this, I'm presently in the "hate them" camp.
Some of you may really, truly love this. I'd strongly suggest you check it out for yourself and see. Personally, I really wanted to give this a higher score, but I just can't.