Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Musings: Tytus - Roaming in Despair

Tytus have been around for about a decade and this is the first I hear of them, and shame on me as they are an excellent traditional heavy metal band. The quartet from Trieste, Italy have just released a new EP, Roaming in Despair, and to my knowledge, they also have two LPs to their name. This EP is released via Canadian, Toronto-based, metal and hard rock label Boonsdale Records.

Tytus’s music harkens back to NWOBHM’s heyday with a dash of speed and thrash metal thrown in for good measure. Roaming in Despair features remastered old singles as well as new tracks. “The March of the Unwilling”, a one-minute instrumental, opens the festivities and gets us in the mood for “Fistful of Sand”, a classic metal tune that sets the tone for the EP. It was initially released as a single in early 2021. “Gotta Keep Movin’”, a MC5 cover, was first released in the spring of 2022. It’s got a Sebastian Bach/Skid Row vibe going for it and is a solid track from top to bottom. It also features terrific guitar work. “Motori” which means “engine” in English, is sung in Italian. It first appeared in the fall of 2021 on the Rock 'n' Roll Summer Camp Vol​. ​2 compilation alongside nine other metals bands. Its infectious melody and one-word chorus will have you singing along and pumping your fist. “Out in the Fields” is one of the new tracks and happens to be my favourite on this set. A vintage ‘80s hair metal song with synths to boot featuring catchy hooks and vocal harmonies. The final song and the other new one is the title track. It has a Maidenesque quality to it and an epic feel with hints of sadness and desperation as the guitars take us out.

Tytus is a band that I’ve now added to my metal radar. Whatever they do next, I wanna hear it. Roaming in Despair is a superb sample of what this band has to offer and I’m sure old school metal fans will eat it up. This 24-minute, 6-track EP goes down easy and will have you hit the repeat button as soon as you’re done your first spin.

Tytus’s Bandcamp page: https://tytusband.bandcamp.com/album/roaming-in-despair 

Monday, March 27, 2023

Musings: Margarita Witch Cult – Self-Titled

Hailing from Sabbath City, Birmingham, UK, Margarita Witch Cult are set to unleash their self-titled debut on April 21st via Italian label Heavy Psych Sounds Records. The trio offers us an eclectic LP that fuses heavy rock, metal, stoner, and heavy psych while dabbling in the occult and horror themes.

The super cool album cover got my attention and, in all honesty, it’s what got me curious to stay past the first track, “Diabolical Influence”, which I found sounded generic (and still does after three spins of the entire record). Everything that follows though, is much better thankfully. “Death Lurks at Every Turn” firmly establishes frontman/guitarist Scott Vincent’s sleazy Rob Zombie-type vocals and I dig that a lot. It’s a high-energy tune, the kind of kick-ass doomy metal I enjoy. “The Witchfinder Comes” follows with its menacing sound, a definite highlight of the album. The lyrics make it easy to picture it in your mind and would make for a very atmospheric videoclip. “Be My Witch” is my favourite song on the LP; a catchy tune with a great melody and an old school vibe all around. “Annihilation” is a fast, groovy track that flies by at just under two minutes in length. “Theme from Cyclops” is the obligatory short instrumental as seems to be the case with every band that puts out an LP these days. It’s good, but not indispensable. “Lord of the Flies” is a terrific doomy and devilish tune with a Sabbathian riff. The fuzz is strong with this one. “Aradia” is a lengthier instrumental, an interlude of sorts before the final track. I always expected vocals to kick in at any given moment, but alas, they never came. “Sacrifice”, the heaviest song of the album, closes us out. Its occult imagery makes it a very visual tune that’s a solid way to exit.  

Margarita Witch Cult’s eponymous first LP is a strong debut that does leave room for improvement. It got better on subsequent spins and I believe it will continue to improve as time goes by. It’s almost a concept album with its recurring occult themes and storytelling. There’s a sense of foreboding pervading throughout the duration which makes for a spooky listening experience. One thing is for sure, it’s certainly an ambitious album. The wide-ranging genres of music and influences make this a record that will appeal to a broad spectrum of listeners. Give it a spin; chances are you’ll have a blast with it!

Heavy Psych Sounds’ Margarita Witch Cult Bandcamp page: https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/margarita-witch-cult-margarita-witch-cult 

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Movie Musings: Dungeons & Dragons - Honor Among Thieves

I caught a sneak preview showing of the new Dungeons & Dragons movie this afternoon and it was everything I was hoping it would be … and more! As I stated two weeks ago in my Audiobook Showcase of the movie’s prequel, The Road to Neverwinter, I’m a newbie to the world of D&D. Having been introduced to the film’s characters via the prequel audiobook, I went into the screening with a certain familiarity, but also some expectations as I had enjoyed the book a lot.

D&D: Honor Among Thieves is directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley from a screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, and Michael Gilio. It stars Chris Pine as Edgin, Michelle Rodriguez as Holga, Justice Smith as Simon, Sophia Lillis as Doric, Hugh Grant as Forge, Daisy Head as Sofina, Regé-Jean Page as Xenk, and Chloe Coleman as Kira. Here is the film’s official synopsis: “A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers undertake an epic heist to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves brings the rich world and playful spirit of the legendary roleplaying game to the big screen in a hilarious and action-packed adventure.

The cast was perfect in their respective roles and delivered great performances all around. The movie moves at a fast pace and is both hilarious and action-packed. A chase sequence early on involving Doric who’s a shapeshifter was intense and riveting. Chris Pine’s knack and timing at serving us with one-liners brought the house down multiple times. Hugh Grant was the perfect villain, the kind you love to hate. Pine and Rodriguez had great on-screen chemistry, and the rest of the cast portrayed colourful and memorable characters. This felt like an old school ‘80s action/fantasy flick in the best of ways. Why did it take so long to get a proper D&D film? It’s well-written and shot, clever, and simply magical, no pun intended.

D&D: Honor Among Thieves lives up to the hype and then some! With a runtime of 2 hours and 14 minutes, you’d think it’d drag in places, but it doesn’t! Fans of the roleplaying game and fantasy/Sword & Sorcery aficionados are gonna have a blast with this film. I for one would love to see more quests with this crew of characters. The film opens wide on Friday, March 31st. It’s the type of movie that the whole family can enjoy and that must be seen on a big screen in a packed theater. Make sure to stay through the end credits for a fun Easter egg. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Audiobook Showcase: Savage Realms Monthly #6

Savage Realms Monthly returns with a new audiobook for Book 6! Readers of this blog know my love for this awesome Sword & Sorcery magazine. I’ve covered the five previous issues here and there. This month’s offering features three new authors delivering fast-paced tales fraught with peril.

This is the first issue not to star Willard Black’s popular Redgar character and he was dearly missed. For me, it had become the story I looked forward to the most each month. Anyhow, I get it: there are only three spots open per book, so you have to give other authors a chance. So, does issue 6 manage to fill the void left by Redgar’s absence? For the most part, the answer is yes. The book opens with W.E. Wertenberger’s “Veil of Black Fire”, a tale featuring a hero named Kol the Saxon, a jade monolith, a portal, and a sorcerer. All the ingredients are there for a good time and I enjoyed this one quite a bit. “Shadows of the Silent Sorcerer” by John R. Lehman follows.  Another fun tale about a rogue trying to rob a sorcerer with a neat plot twist. The third and final tale, “Melkart and the Mithras Miracle” by Mark Mellon, is my favourite of the lot. This one’s about a hero battling an evil bull and it has a lighter tone, which I dug.

Author interviews had seemingly vanished in issue 5 and I’m happy to report that they’re back with this tome. I always enjoy hearing about a writer’s influences, his creative process and such. I’ve noticed that about four out of five writers since issue 1 have stated Robert E. Howard and Conan as their biggest influence and favourite character in the Sword & Sorcery genre (my picks as well). It just goes to show how much of an impact Howard and his legendary barbarian have had—90 years later, we’re all still reading Conan and we continue to enjoy Howard’s writings immensely.

SRM Book 6 continues to treat us to fresh voices in the S&S genre and brings us a good dose of literary mayhem and magic. A shorter book this time around, running at about an hour and forty-something minutes as opposed to the two-hour plus length of the previous volumes. Moose Matson keeps getting better and better at narrating these yarns, even adding some cool sound effects in the last tale. His performance really enhances the product. As usual, if you’re just hearing about SRM for the first time, this issue is as good a place as any to start reading/listening and no prior books are required reading to join in on the fun. However, I highly recommend picking up the first five issues as they’re all amazing!

Rating: Four stars out of five

Get your copy on Audible 

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Musings: The Golden Grass - Life Is Much Stranger

New York’s The Golden Grass are set to release their fourth LP, Life Is Much Stranger, on April 7th via Italian label Heavy Psych Sounds Records. The trio delivers a perfect concoction of classic rock, boogie, bluesy prog rock, and southern hard rock with this new album. Conceived on the heels of three years of pandemic, this record represents a means of catharsis for the band.

After perusing their discography, it’s easy to see (and hear) that this band knows their stuff when it comes to music. One thing that seems to get lost in the shuffle nowadays is the art of writing catchy lyrics and melodies. Even a lot of bands I love write great songs, but they’re not that catchy, and that’s okay too. But sometimes it’s fun to listen to an album that’s chock-full of catchy choruses that make you wanna sing along or roll the windows of your car down to blast a tune for the whole neighbourhood to hear. The Golden Grass excel at penning catchy songs. Right off the bat, the first single, “Howlin”, has a trademark ‘70s classic rock riff and you know you’re in for a good time. “Springtime on Stanwoods” is a more laid-back, memorable tune that reminded me a lot of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s style. “Island in Your Head” is comfort food with its chill vibe and great guitar tone. “100 Arrows” is a faster rock number, and quite possibly my favourite track on here, with a super catchy chorus. “Not Without Its Charm” has plenty of charm, a terrific contemplative song that steers us toward a tune to bop your head to with “The Answers Never Know”, a largely instrumental standout track. Song number 7 which ties directly into the album’s title, “A Peculiar Situation”, takes us out. Its infectious riff and lyrical structure come full circle in solidifying the band’s sound.

The Golden Grass does authentic ‘70s style hard rock like no other band does. Fans of Blue Cheer, BTO, Captain Beyond, and Traffic will particularly dig Life Is Much Stranger. Classic rock is alive and well in 2023; Love Gang got things off the ground earlier this year with Meanstreak and The Golden Grass keeps the ball rolling. I’m really enjoying this trend of retro rock that’s been going on for a few years now. More please—it’s a nice change of pace from the hundreds of new stoner rock bands that pop up yearly. Life Is Much Stranger comes highly recommended from your friendly Harbinger of Doom.

Heavy Psych Sounds’ The Golden Grass Bandcamp page: https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-golden-grass-life-is-much-stranger

The Golden Grass on Bandcamp: https://thegoldengrass.bandcamp.com/ 

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Audiobook Showcase: Dungeons & Dragons - Honor Among Thieves: The Road to Neverwinter

Dungeons & Dragons is a franchise that needs little introduction. Initially, it was a fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG) back in the early ‘80s with an extended mythology that spans across books/novels, video games, a 1980s Saturday morning cartoon, three crappy (for the most part) live-action movies, and a new one that looks pretty damn good coming out on March 31st, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves starring Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez.

D&D - Honor Among Thieves: The Road to Neverwinter serves as a prequel to the afore-mentioned upcoming movie. It’s written by Jaleigh Johnson and was published on February 28th, 2023 in hardback, on Kindle, and audiobook on Audible. The audiobook is narrated by Fred Berman. Here is the book’s official synopsis: “Discover the thrilling origin stories of the bard Edgin, the barbarian Holga, and their whole adventuring party in this official prequel to Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.

Edgin Darvis’ life is a mess. All that he has left are his lute, his dashing good looks, and... not much else. After a chance encounter with badass bruiser Holga, Edgin is forced to take a hard look at his bad choices. But the road to redemption is long, and paved with unforeseen expenses. Fortunately, the world is full of rich fools begging to be parted from their money.

And so Edgin and Holga do what any sensible entrepreneurs would do—they form a crew.

Joined by a charming rogue, Forge Fitzwilliam, and Simon, a sorcerer with an intense inferiority complex, the team sets out to line their pockets with both well-earned and ill-gotten gold. Together, Edgin’s crew battles monsters across the realms: gnoll raiders, fey witches, and more fall beneath their sharp weapons and sharper wit. But when they encounter a new, more sophisticated villain, keen blades and piercing blue eyes may not be enough.

Their target? Torlinn Shrake, a wealthy eccentric known for abusing his servants and hosting lavish parties.

The plan? Play dress-up, sneak into the Shrake estate, and fill their pockets with as much loot as they can carry.

The catch? Shrake is hiding a terrible secret: one that could endanger the lives of everyone Edgin has come to care for—even if the loot is too good to pass up.

This was my first real foray into a D&D adventure. I’ve never played the game, only watched a handful of episodes of the cartoon as a kid, and saw the atrocious 2000 film once back when it was released. I’ve been meaning to read some of the books, especially the classic four books in the Dragonlance Chronicles starting with Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman from 1984. I know they have a new series of novels out, Dragons of Deceit, that started last summer, with Book 2 scheduled for this summer. Anyhow, for my introduction to D&D, The Road to Neverwinter was a perfect starting point.

As I said, since I’m not that familiar with D&D, I can’t compare it with the 90 plus books already published, but it strikes me as slightly different than those judging by the book covers alone. For one, this book is definitely light fare with a cast of characters that are less seasoned in their respective craft than what I was expecting, but it made it fun to tag along with them in their sometimes-quirky adventures. The fact that this is a prequel to a film also made it easier to put a name on a face—you just have to go on IMDb and look at which actor plays which character and you’ve got the cast fleshed out in your mind. Watch the movie trailer and you get even more insight, so it made for a cool experience, like reading an established franchise with beloved characters like Star Trek or Star Wars for instance.

We follow the group of companions on a couple of adventures before they embark on their main quest, a daring heist: Edgin is a thief with his young daughter Kyra, Holga the barbarian is the muscle of the group, Forge has charm as a con artist, and Simon is an amateur sorcerer. The story moves at brisk pace, it’s full of humour, and each of the players are developed enough that we care what happens to them. Fred Berman does a terrific job narrating the tale and uses different accents for the various individuals involved. I last heard him as a narrator doing Vince Neil’s part in the Mötley Crüe audiobook bio The Dirt, so this was a nice change of pace for him. While we’re on the subject of other audiobooks, there’s one more D&D: Honor Among Thieves movie tie-in book/audiobook titled The Druid's Call written by E.K. Johnston that was released on the same day which focuses on Doric, a character that wasn’t featured in this story. That book is aimed more towards a teen/young adult audience but it’s worth mentioning for D&D fans out there.

D&D - Honor Among Thieves: The Road to Neverwinter is a lot of fun and does most things right. Will it please hardcore D&D fans/readers? I’m not well-versed enough in the D&D realm to be able to give an opinion, but as far as Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery in general is concerned, it was quite an enjoyable read/listen. As far as movie prequels go, this hit the spot for me and I’m now eagerly anticipating the movie at the end of March. It’ll feel like going to visit some old friends. So, if you’re planning on catching the movie soon, you should get a kick out of this audiobook.

Rating: Four stars out of five

Get your copy on Audible 

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Stoner Rock Army Presents HazeHound/AAWKS/Sons of Arrakis

My hometown of Montreal has always been a fantastic city for bands to perform live. This week, on Thursday, March 9th, Stoner Rock Army will host a special night at Turbo Haus featuring three awesome bands: HazeHound, AAWKS, and Sons of Arrakis.

To open the festivities around 8:30 PM, Montreal’s own HazeHound, will perform their unique brand of psychedelic dad rock. Take their debut EP, High Fever, for a spin and you’ll be in for a hell of a good time.

Second to take the stage around 9:30 PM, the band I look forward to seeing/hearing the most, is Barrie, Ontario’s AAWKS. The psychedelic, fuzzy, heavy rock band whose debut LP, Heavy on the Cosmic, wound up on many year-end lists, including yours truly, are bound to knock your socks off. I had a conversation with them last year and reviewed their album as well.

For the pièce de résistance at about 10:30 PM, Montreal’s Sons of Arrakis will immerse our snow-covered city into Dune-inspired desert rock tunes off of their Volume I album. The band has gathered quite the following in town and will likely attract a lot of fans to this show.

Doors will open at 7 PM and tickets are $15. You can visit Turbo Haus’s Website for more details and you can purchase your tickets in advance right here. I look forward to the experience and I’ll try to snap some quality pics for the blog or to post on my Twitter page the next day. Enjoy the show!

Turbo Haus is located at 2040 Saint-Denis, Montréal, QC, H2X 1E7 

Friday, March 3, 2023

Let’s March on Bandcamp Friday!

It’s back! Bandcamp Friday is here! You know the drill: Bandcamp waives its revenue share and all the money goes directly to the artists and labels for a full 24 hours. Winter will soon be over and it’s one more reason to celebrate. Here are my top five picks for this March edition of BC Friday.

First off, Quebec desert rock quintet extraordinaire Cleõphüzz released their first long play, Mystic Vulture, a couple of weeks ago and it’s an epic sonic journey. Read my musings about it here and purchase it over here.

Second, RidingEasy Records unleashed Westing’s fourth LP, Future, last week and it’s a perfect Zeppelinesque blend of ‘70s classic rock with bluesy vibes. Check it out over here.

Third, last week Dying Victims Productions via their Relics from the Crypt sub-label resurrected a classic gem of heavy metal from 1984 in the form of Belgium’s Buzzard with their LP Gambler. An awesome album on all fronts! You can pick it up here and read my musings on it right here.

Fourth, today sees the release of Heavy Psych Sounds’ Witchthroat Serpent and their Trove of Oddities at the Devil's Driveway record—a doomy, occult, Satan-worshipping bunch of tracks worthy of your time. Take it for a spin over here.

Fifth, the mighty Ripple Music will unleash Morass of Molasses’ third LP, End All We Know, on March 24th and it’s a terrific mélange of blues, stoner, and heavy rock. If you dug their first two singles, “Naysayer” and “Hellfayre”, then you’ll love the whole thing. Pre-order yours over here.

Another edition of Bandcamp Friday is in the books at good old Harbinger’s headquarters. Show some love, support those hard-working bands and labels, and add some albums and songs to your music library. It’s for a great cause and we all win on Bandcamp Friday. Enjoy and tune in again next month for another edition (and in between for plenty of cool content). 

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Musings: Buzzard – Gambler

I always get really excited when I discover a long-lost gem from a band I’ve never heard of. Last week, one of my favourite indie metal labels, Dying Victims Productions, released Belgian ‘80s metal band Buzzard’s Gambler via their Relics from the Crypt sub-label. Gambler initially came out in October 1984 on the heels of the band’s A Strange Gang demo in 1983. Sadly, it would be the quartet’s one and only album. We have Dying Victims Productions to thank for this reissue, a little over 38 years later, to reintroduce this band to a whole new audience, including yours truly. Akin to last year’s RidingEasy Records reissue of ‘70s rock band Sorcery’s Stunt Rock Soundtrack, this is another special album that I’ll have on heavy rotation for the remainder of the year.

We get the double threat of “Stone-Hard and Loud” and “We Are Heavy Rockers” to kick things off with a bang. Two barn-burning tracks that set the tone for the rest of the record with terrific guitar solos. “You and Me” even has some prog vibes, “Save Me” is a rippin’ good tune, and we’re even treated to a cool ballad with “Can’t You See.” “A Strange Gang”, a polished cut taken from their demo, is a fun arena rock song with a scorching guitar solo. One of my favourite tracks, “Nosferatu”, is an ode to the Prince of Darkness. The title track follows; it’s good, but not among my faves on the LP. Songs number 9 and 10, “Midnight Countess” and “Woman of Illusion”, bring the curtain down with panache, ending the party on a high note with a one-two punch as they are two of the very best tracks Gambler has to offer.

Gambler is an album full of highlights that keeps getting better on repeat spins. Brimming with youthful energy, it’s sure to satisfy fans of old school metal, fast hard rock, with a smidgeon of speed metal. It definitely takes inspiration from the NWOBHM movement and has echoes of ‘80s metal from Germany. It’s really a shame tragedy struck and we didn’t get more than one album from Buzzard. I’m sure they’d have broken through had they been given a few years to gather a proper following. That’s the beauty of reissues—we can enjoy this album now for the first time or if you’re already familiar with this band and LP, you can rediscover it all over again. Give it a spin, it’s a ton of fun.

Dying Victims Productions’ Buzzard Bandcamp page: https://dyingvictimsproductions.bandcamp.com/album/gambler 

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Audiobook Showcase: Savage Realms Monthly #4 & 5

I first featured the Savage Realms Monthly magazine back in January during my Sword & Sorcery Audiobook Showcase series. I discussed what it was about and how much I enjoyed it, focusing on Books 1, 2, and 3. Since then, Books 4 and 5 have been published on Audible and today I’ll be shining the spotlight on those.

The same formula of three stories from three different writers per issue returns, narrated by the always excellent Moose Matson who really gets into the spirit of things with his infectious gusto and competent voicing of the various characters. One of the things I was most looking forward to was listening to the continuing adventures of Willard Black’s Redgar and Natali. I don’t know about other readers/listeners, but after three issues worth of following Redgar the Hathor, I’m firmly invested into this barbarian and can’t wait to hear about his next quest. It’s a similar feeling to what readers of the original Weird Tales run must’ve experienced waiting for the next issue featuring Robert E. Howard’s Conan, Kull or Solomon Kane, and H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos stories.

Book 4 starts off with “The Revenant King” by Willard Black and follows Redgar and Natali venturing into a town struggling with a plague. I wonder where Black got the inspiration for that idea! All kidding aside, it’s an engaging tale that gives us a little more insight into Natali. Another terrific Redgar story that only makes me want to see what happens next. “Crawling in the Dark” by Chad Wilson follows, a story about a hero named Brock who must take matters into his own hands and save a village from giant spiders. I really dug this one as a classic creature feature. The third and final story, “Uncertain Treasure” by Victor H. Rodriguez, ends the anthology on a strong note, more about sorcery than swords featuring a thief and a sorceress. I won’t divulge any more not to spoil the intrigue. We also get fun author interviews for two of the three scribes featured.

Book 5 gets the ball rolling with “Tower of Ornelia” by Ben Crawford, a returning author from Book 2, and features a warrior on a quest for a lost prince. This was a fun tale and I look forward to reading more of Crawford’s stories in future issues. Next up is Willard Black’s fifth story in the ongoing Redgar saga titled “The Keshite’s Lover”. Our adventurous duo winds up in a small town victim of racial prejudice. This one has a bit of a social commentary and a very cool brawl as things unfold. Another winning entry in the Redgar series. The last tale, “A Broken Column in the Salt Plains” by Adrian Simmons, grew on me as it went on because I wasn’t into it at first. It deals with an archaeologist, past life/memories from a different era, and Native American imagery. While not exactly S&S, it was a nice change of pace from the other stories and I smiled at the Star Trek references. No author interviews for Book 5 sadly.

Savage Realms Monthly’s fourth and fifth issues continue to showcase solid and engrossing Sword & Sorcery tales from a diverse crop of authors. If you’re just joining the party, no worries, you can pick up any issue and won’t feel lost. The Redgar tales all stand on their own and the other yarns don’t require to be read in any specific order. SRM is the perfect fix for S&S fans eager to discover new talent and be immersed into weird and fantastic worlds. Bring on Book 6!

Rating: Five stars out of five

Get your copy on Audible