Aug 232014

Today’s post is a rather mixed bag of  vaguely-related topics. Lets kick off (ahem) with Kickstarter…


Last weekend I was supposed to be at Alt-Fest, a crowd-funded goth/metal/industrial festival that was shaping up to be awesome. Then three weeks ago it imploded spectacularly – cancellation rumours circulated on Twitter, before finally a statement was released saying they’d not sold enough tickets and had run out of money. I suspect the UK alternative community is too small to support such an ambitious festival, but it was worth a punt. I suspect that this could be the first and last large-scale crowdfunded festival.

I love the concept of Kickstarter, but I’m done for the time being. I went in with some friends on the Deadzone game, but by the time we received it we’d all rather lost interest in miniatures wargaming, so I’ve got a small pile of useless plastic I may never use.


Chaos Reborn concept art

It’s not all been bad. The other project I’ve backed recently is Julian Gollop’s Chaos Reborn, a remake of the best game ever made: the original Chaos on the ZX Spectrum. To be honest I don’t know if I’ll actually get around to playing the finished product, but as a ten year old I spent hundreds of hours playing dodgy copies of Chaos and Rebelstar, so I figured some back-payment was due. It’s looking pretty good though.

Space sims

On a similar note I’m done with pre-ordering games as well, and I can pin that down to one game: X Rebirth. I’d been a fan of the X games since my university housemate made me play X-Tension years ago. It was a modern-day Elite with trading, shooting, pirates, space stations and fleets of ships. It was quite slow and the interface was awkward but I spent months building my space empire. The sequels were more of the same but bigger, better and prettier.


World’s most annoying co-pilot with character design straight out of the bad old days

So I was aware that X Rebirth was going off in a slightly different direction, mainly by making it friendlier and more accessible, but obviously it was going to be good, right? There was a small pre-order discount and access to the soundtrack (which I loved in the earlier games and spent hours listening to) so I succumbed to a rare impulse purchase. A few weeks later and I was the proud owner of a (literally) unplayable mess. Frequent soft-locks, glaring bugs and things just not working made progress through the game impossible.

The worst bit though wasn’t the bugs, but was leaving your ship to walk around a station. There were all of two different station interior layouts, the NPC character models were straight out of System Shock 2, every character was incredibly rude when speaking to you (even they ones you’d employed) and the gameplay involved walking around looking for crates full of junk to sell back to people stood three feet away from them. Some sage advice: “if you can’t do something well, cut it from your game”. The have been a huge load of updates since, but I can’t bring myself to go back and play it again.


It’s a shame because the actual space bit can be very pretty

All is not lost is the space sim genre though. The most successful crowd-funded project of all time, Star Citizen, continues to attract cash at an alarming rate. I’ve not been following it too closely because I can’t see any way that it’ll ever be ready for release. I suspect it’s far too ambitious to ever lock down on a shippable feature set, but prove me wrong and release a decent game and I’ll buy it.

But! The real Elite is back and looking good! With a more sensible level of funding, Elite: Dangerous is already in beta for an expected release later this year. In a classic case of doing more with less it’s promising to be a worthy sequel, and I fully expect to while away many more hours in the dark depths of space. Finally this most venerable of genres is getting the attention it deserves, on the modern hardware that can do it justice.


Elite Dangerous


Anyway, to make up for Alt-Fest here’s a few more bands I’ve been listening to lately.

Bad Pollyanna

I was looking forward to Bad Pollyanna last week, but instead I’ll be seeing them play the Whitby Goth Weekend later in the year. It’s catchy guitar tunes paired with a slightly retro horror-goth theme. Also try Monstrous Child.

Leaves Eyes

I saw Leaves Eyes back in January, and my main memory is how genuinely happy and polite they all were! From Norway and Germany, they play some great Viking-themed symphonic metal. If you like the less heavy stuff, give singer Liv Kristine’s solo work a go.


Amaranthe is one of those bands I keep going back to without getting bored. Their three vocalists – female singer, male singer and male growler – keep things varied, with a nice mixture of metal styles and pop influences. I saw them in Nottingham earlier in the year and while their complicated sound meant the mix wasn’t perfect, I’ll certainly be going to see them again. Check out Razorblade and Electroheart.

Miss FD

Time for something a bit different with Miss FD. A mix of upbeat American-electro with the more recent albums featuring a lot of moody quieter tracks. Also try Moment Of Fade and Enter The Void.

Jun 082013

Hardly anyone I know shares my taste in music. To potentially help alleviate this I present a selection of great female-fronted bands who aren’t as well known as they should be. (Looking back at my selection it would appear I mainly like musical duos and singers with red or black hair…)

Anyway, in no particular order:

1. Helalyn Flowers

Helalyn Flowers are an Italian duo who I randomly stumbled across a couple of years ago, and are now one of my favourite bands. They have a very catchy melodic electro/goth sound, and you can hear a bunch of their stuff here.

They have three albums out, A Voluntary Coincidence,  Stitches Of Eden and their recently released White Me In / Black Me Out. The new one hasn’t quite grown on me yet so I’d have to recommend Stitches Of Eden as the best one. Standout tracks for me are Hybrid Moments and Friendly Strangers.

Hoping they’ll make it to the UK one day, but I suspect that’s unlikely.

2. Indica

Indica are a Finnish all-female melodic rock band with some classical influences. They have one English album, A Way Away, which is well worth a listen. My favourite tracks are Precious Dark and Islands of Light:


Apparently they have a new album out soon, so I’m looking forward to that. I need to get hold of some of their earlier material too.

3. I:Scintilla

Something a bit more industrial this time. I:Scintilla come from Chicago and have been going for over a decade. They have a couple of great albums in Optics and Dying & Falling, for when you’re looking for something with a harsher sound and a bit more energy.

Swimmers Can Drown is from Dying & Falling:

My recommended tracks from their previous album Optics are The Bells and Melt.

4. L’Âme Immortelle

L’Âme Immortelle are an Austrian duo with a French name who sing in a mixture of German and English. Lyrically they can be a bit cheesy but on half the songs I don’t understand the language so I let them off. They used to be predominantly synth-based, but then they moved into more traditional rock territory which I wasn’t so keen on. Therefor my pick of their albums would be a couple of their older ones, Gezeiten and Als Die Liebe Starb.

They have a playlist here, of which I recommend Judgement, Tiefster Winter and 5 Jahre.

5. Collide

Slowing the tempo a bit, Collide are an American duo who mix stark electronica with ethereal vocals and Eastern influences. They have a few songs here, and I Halo and their cover of White Rabbit.

For albums, I’d probably go for Chasing the Ghost or Some Kind of Strange.

6. Hungry Lucy

Winning the award for most bizarre band name is Hungry Lucy. They are another American duo and have been around for fifteen years now, writing haunting melodies alongside some more upbeat grooves. Their entire catalogue is available to stream on their website.

To Kill A King is my album of choice, although it was Alfred from Apparitions that first made me curious about the band.

7. Emilie Autumn

Emilie Autumn styles herself on a Victorian asylum aesthetic, mixed with elements of industrial music, so you can expect violins, harpsichords, synths, guitars and drum machines, presented with elements of caberet, burlesque and some humour.

Recommended tracks are Opheliac and Fight Like A Girl, while Thank God I’m Pretty and Girls! Girls! Girls! have good use of comedy to make a point. Opheliac is my recommended album overall, and the live shows are good fun (she’s touring the UK later this year).