NHL 2016 - Giving it a Sporting Try

By ArtBrom [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By ArtBrom [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A tiny bit of background about me: I love video games but I don’t enjoy sports. I don’t follow them at all and I couldn’t name you five athletes that play organized sports. I know that baseball has home runs, football has touchdowns, and hockey has goals. That’s about the width and breadth of my knowledge. Consistent with my lack of interest in sports, a lack of interest in sports games has always been a natural side-effect. My distaste for sports has been mostly passive, but at times, it’s been actively aggressive – especially during football season.

This review, however, isn’t about that. This review is more about how my anti-sports walls were recently crumbled, if ever so slightly. I have a decently sized community of friends I game with, and the majority of them are sports fans. The one game most of them agree upon playing, typically without fail, is hockey. After years of hearing them play and talk and grouse about it in the Xbox Live party, my intolerance finally crumbled this week.

I started playing EA’s NHL 2016, and I had no expectations when I fired it up. I have no previous experience with EA sports games, and the last sports game I played was Ice Hockey for the NES back in 1989. Needless to say, I came into the game like a babe in the woods. I can say, as a matter of fact, there’s a lot to this game. There’s a decent learning curve to understand the nuances of the title, but I found I could pick it up and tap a few buttons to play with varying degrees of effectiveness.

NHL 2016 has a number of game-play modes for fans to choose from. As I am woefully unfamiliar with previous iterations of the game, I couldn’t tell you what’s new and what’s a holdover from last year. While the game can be incredibly complex (and you’ll have to learn those complexities to be GOOD at the game), even someone with no experience can jump online and skate with their friends with very little practice. I learned very quickly that hockey doesn’t allow players to skate full-speed into opponents and level them to the ice like a Mack Truck. Food for thought!

After playing NHL 2016 for about 12 hours, there hasn’t been a revelation for me to become a sports fan. I’m not going to run out and buy a Black Hawks jersey and watch the games on TV. It’d take a lot more than a video game to drive me to that. However, I will keep playing NHL 2016. The game-play is exciting and addictive. There’s a great deal to learn about the game and a ton of modes to try out. It’s a social game that I can play and learn strategies with my friends. If asked, at this point, I’d suggest to others who don’t follow sports to give a try. You might be surprised like I was.

Final score for NHL 2016: 3.5 out of 5.  

Nihilstinen Barbaarisuus – The Child Must Die

In an effort to make good on a personal pledge, here's the first of many album reviews of the bands I play on The Metal Mortuary. Check out the show on The Edge On Air every Tuesday and Thursday @ Noon CST.

Before I start this review, I want to say, I’m a sucker for physical media. I just received my copy of The Child Must Die today. First, I love the Digipak and the vivid artwork. The front and back cover are illustrated with evocative imagery that harkens to early classic Black Metal albums like Emperor’s In the Nightside Eclipse and Dark Funeral’s Secrets of the Black Arts. It’s filled with deep purple, green and blue hues, invoking that feeling of something dark and ancient. The cold color scheme has to be intentional, because it’s a subtle advisory of what’s to be found in the music within.

The Child Must Die is basically, from my understanding, a concept album. With the exception of the title track, the lyrics are adapted from The Kalevala, a compilation of epic poetry from Finnish oral folklore and mythology. This is serious North American Black Metal that is deeply rooted in the thematic concepts of Northern European paganism and heathen creation myth.

 Lyrical concepts aside, this is a velocious, frigid and ferocious album.

 Many black metal bands use or have used keyboards, synths and other atmospheric tools to varying degrees of success (including this band in previous releases). Quite a few bands only manage to detract and distract with atmospheric keyboards. As I listen to The Child Must Die, I only hear it improve the frigid textures of the music.

 These songs are hard, bleak and forceful. This album starts with the song, Wondrous Sampo, which without warning, thrusts the listener headlong into aural abuse. Väinämöinen, in particular, throttles forward with blistering blast beats, while the keys help to evoke a rich layer of atmosphere. These elements perfectly complement the stark, throaty wails of the vocalist, Joel Robert Thompson. The production of this album craftily combines a classic, raw style, with a crispness that belies the skill and musicianship of Mika Mage’s obvious perfectionism.  

I don’t know if this album is going to break new ground for any black metal fans, and I don’t know if it needs to. This album does exactly what it’s supposed to do: be really fucking brutal Atmospheric Black metal. In that sense, it is a work of perfection. The Child Must Die is unmistakably unique in that this album doesn’t sound like anyone else, but it still fits comfortably within the confines of the genre.

If you are a fan of raw, cold, atmospheric Black Metal, Nihilstinen Barbaarisuus’ the Child Must Die is required listening. It’s a savage, 33 minute journey that will beg additional listens. This is my favorite release so far this year, and one of the best USBM albums I’ve heard in a while. Do yourself a favor and get a copy. 

A Half-Assed Review of WWE Royal Rumble '15 by a Half-Assed Fan.

I have been an off and on wrestling fan since I was a kid. I haven’t followed wrestling or, more specifically WWE since Triple H was still wrestling. Nothing specifically occurred to make me stop watching, but the last time I watched Raw with any regularity, it was fairly boring and formulaic. I decided a few years back to cancel my cable package, and that was the end of my Monday nights, with little regret for the loss.

I had watched for years, seeing the same old pablum over and over again, and I really didn't feel any loss when it went away. Like many other exiled fans, I’m sure, the idea of an app, coupled with the obviously manufactured hype of new, fresh faces as well as the return of classic fan favorites to the ring drew me back in.

Last night was the WWE Royal Rumble, where a varied collective of corny characters and racial stereotypes throw each other around for 20 minutes and then one guy ends up the last ego remaining in the ring. Then, at WRESTLEMANIA!!!!!!! The winner gets to blah blah blah.  This morning, the internets were ablaze with hashtags and vitriol about the results of the royal bumble. Today, like the fucking sheep I am, I decided to plop down my 10 dollars and check out the hoopla.

I decided to give my match by match review, as a returning fan, and share what I saw upon my return to the “WWE Universe” (which is another annoying and contrived internet era term for all things WWE).

The Royal Rumble starts with the introduction by “The New Age Outlaws”, who any long-term fan is familiar with from their tenure in DX, back in the “Attitude Era”. As I watched the opening, all I could think was that they should probably change their name to “The Old Age Outlaws”. They appeal to our collective nostalgia for a few minutes, transitioning to a previous night of RAW where a number of other WWE Legends have reunited in the ring, giving the fans some degree of context as to why Road Dog and Billy Gunn are opening the Royal Rumble. Next, some music plays and some goofy looking guys in Ren Faire armor with Egyptian-ish symbols on their man skirts come out to wrestle the Legends. I have no idea what their team is called, nor am I willing to click over to the browser window to find out. What follows is five boring and unremarkable minutes of old school Wrastlin’ that made me want to go get a coffee. It was an obvious attempt to put some newcomers over, and all it really did for me was bore the shit out of me. The new guys win, the night moves on.

Up next is another tag match. As an aside, I am actually kind of pleased that the WWE is seemingly refocusing on tag matches. When I stopped watching a few years ago, tag teams were all but forgotten by McMahon and Co. I don’t recall any real stables at that point, and I’m pleased that they've refocused on them to some degree. Also, at some point they cut away to Triple H and Stephanie having the world’s most convincing conversation about how Sting of all people snuck into the arena the week before and interrupted the villainous Corporate Power, or whatever the fuck they are calling themselves now from cheating John Cena out of ugh, who fucking cares. Anyways, Sting is getting paid by the WWE, so I’m assuming that very shortly, it’ll start raining toads.

Match number two comes up, and it’s The Miz and his “stunt double” Damien Mizdow against the Usos. Three of the wrestlers in the second match are complete unknowns to me, and The Miz is annoying and I don’t find him to be particularly skilled as a wrestler or a heel. He’s been humping around for years, and I’m just not into what he’s selling. The Usos come out and they do a Haka, which is a thing. There’s some wrestling and it’s all quite remarkable. The stereotypical Samoans thankfully won, and wrestled well in my opinion. Even though I was unfamiliar with them, they aren’t The Miz, and for that, I thank them.

Up next, a match by the Divas, which I don’t even remember, it was so boring. Wikipedia tells me The Bella Twins (Brie Bella and Nikki Bella) defeated Paige and Natalya. What this means, I couldn’t tell you.

Next is the three-way, triple threat, and much hyped championship match between John Cena, Seth Rollins (who I don’t know) and the guy who does suplexes (suplex. All kidding aside, regardless of his skill set, Brock Lesnar has always been entertaining to me). John Cena is John Cena, and love him or hate him, he’s always been consistent. My lack of familiarity with Seth Rollins isn’t a deterrent for me at all.

Ugh. The rest of this doesn’t even matter. I was really trying to write a traditional review for this PPV, but I just can’t finish it. In the process of writing this, about a week’s worth of time has elapsed. I’ve watched about three episodes of WCW Monday Nitro since I watched the Pay-Per-View, and I’ve come to a conclusion about Professional Wrestling after comparing the two, past and present. I watched three episodes of Monday Nitro from July of ’96. In 1996, at the beginning of the accent of WCW, the wrestling, the ACTUAL wrestling, was fucking amazing. In a two hour episode of classic WCW, you’d see about 10 matches. Every one of the matches was full bore, and even the unknown wrestlers were incredibly skilled and fluid. You’d have 45 seconds to a minute of promos in between matches, with the wrestlers hyping their storylines, etc. Honestly, most of the promo work was INCREDIBLY bad.
Just BAD.

But that’s ok. The matches were exciting and fast paced. The results were fairly unpredictable. Sure, you’d have the occasional run-in or DQ match to keep it mixed up. The point is, the wrestling was the primary focus. The action was the glue that bound the show together, and it was good. Watch any wrestling from the three big ones in the late 90’s, and the action blows everything away that’s being pushed today. Any of the opening matches picked at random would be more entertaining than the first 4 or 5 matches during the Royal Rumble last week. It’s not the specific characters or wrestlers that made the difference, it is the “entertainment” in sports entertainment that’s different. Now, the action has taken a huge back seat to the “stories” the WWE (and other somehow inferior organizations) are trying to sell. The wrestlers that are popular today can tell a story, they are charismatic and I guess interesting, but the action and actual wrestling part of the equation is just utter shit.

Wrestling has always been insensitive, base, mindless, a little racist (or at least xenophobic), and downright fucking silly. It still is today, but at least 20 years ago, that spectacle was tempered by the skill and physicality of the athletes. The excitement was played out in the drama of the exhibition. Your heroes blathered on about destroying their rivals and archenemies, then spent twenty plus minutes leaving it all in the ring. We all know the outcome is scripted, but now EVERYTHING is scripted. I hate to break the news to you, WWE, but if I wanted to watch a poorly scripted, formulaic show with stiff acting, where action is so rare it’s nearly non-existent, I’d watch daytime drama.