Unpopular Metal Opinions – #1

Shouting out the opinions you won’t say out loud. This week: the 90s, Morbid Angel, Sepultura, and Meshuggah.

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With Metal comes passion, followed by analysis, followed by debates and disagreements, followed by a furious hornet’s nest of opinions.

Sardonic jokes aside, our passion to debate and defend Metal music is what makes it so interesting. But lately, it seems there are a lot of blanket opinions and ‘accepted truths’ on bands, albums, or eras of music that metalheads simply refuse to budge on. Make the slightest effort to challenge these assumptions, and you’ll probably be looked down upon like a Limp Bizkit fan at a Kreator concert — which is why a good number of us just shut up and nod along.

BUT, where’s the fun in that? With courage in my heart, steel in my balls and a lack of original ideas in my mind, here are my Unpopular Metal Opinions.


‘Illud Divinum Insanus’ is a GOOD Morbid Angel album

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BOY, are the Death Metal purists going to come after me for this.

‘Illud Divinum Insanus’ had a lot riding on it before its release, and a lot more going against it. It was the first Morbid album since 1995 to have David Vincent on vocals, the first album in almost 10 years since 2003’s ‘Heretic’, and the first not to feature long-time drummer Pete Sandoval. Moreover, fans had a sneaking suspicion that Vincent would bring over some Industrial influences from his wife’s band Genitorturers, which was confirmed as soon as they heard “Radikult” and “Destructos vs. the Earth” from the new album. And thus began the critical paddling session on this release, which continues to this day.

But here’s my rub: ‘Illud…’ is a classic example of an album misjudged by just a few of its songs. “Radikult” and “Destructos…” were destined to screw with Death Metal fans, but other tracks like “Nevermore”, “Existo Vulgoré” and “Blades for Baal” are sharp, brutal and heavy turn-of-the-century Morbid Angel. David Vincent’s vocals have never sounded better, and for all the shade thrown at the album’s drum-sampling, drummer Tim Yeung is certainly no slouch behind the skins. While it’s true that this album doesn’t have the dense layers and dark atmosphere of classics such as ‘Altars of Madness’ or ‘Domination’, it’s a perfectly serviceable Morbid album with its own sound, that doesn’t deserve its pariah status.

 

The experimental 90s NEEDED to happen

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Very few look back fondly on the dreaded 90s — when basically all the bands behind the ‘classic’ rock and metal sound moved as far away from it as they could. From Metallica and Iron Maiden to Judas Priest and Kreator, every one of them it seemed, had deserted the faith and bowed down to ‘popular trends’. But let’s look at this another way.

This experimental phase may not have been good for the old-school fans, but it did bring in a new group of alternative fans who could then backtrack to their classic material. There are a number of metalheads today who opine that their favourite band’s first album (and perhaps their first Metal experience itself) was something like Metallica’s ‘Black Album’, Iron Maiden’s ‘X-factor’, Kreator’s ‘Outcast’, or Testament’s ‘Demonic’. And that’s perfectly fine.

Moreover, it’s just a fact that every musical group wants to experiment with different styles. It’s part and parcel of being a musician in any genre. It was better for these bands to get all this experimentation out of their system in the 90s, when the Internet was still too primitive to provide the opinion boombox we have today. And more often than not, they then entered the 2000s with renewed perspective and returned to their classic sound — now with the support of both old-school and 90s fans on a more connected Internet. Could you imagine if say, Megadeth threw the curveball that was ‘Risk’ in the late 2000s or even now? The backlash would definitely be more intense, and even career-changing.

 

Derrick Green’s Sepultura is GOOD

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It seems that Sepultura will never escape the shadow of Max Cavalera, with persistent fans screaming that the band basically died with his departure. Truth is, Sepultura didn’t die — they just became different. And ‘different’ can be good.

While it can be said that their 2000s material just doesn’t hold up to classics like ‘Beneath the Remains’ and ‘Chaos A.D.’, it is fascinatingly different from anything the Cavaleras have ever put out. One thing that has always defined Max in any project is his primal intensity, fuelled by years of living in poverty and police brutality in Brazil. He writes in-your-face metal with simple lyrics, and rarely aspires to any high-minded concepts — and in most cases, we love him for that. Sepultura’s ‘Caval-era’ was the purest distillation of that anger, with the musical experimentation between ‘Arise’ and ‘Roots’ simply sweetening the deal.

But not so, post-90s Sepultura. With Andreas Kisser largely helming creative control, the band began to dig into more sophisticated themes. Sepultura has so far borrowed from works such as ‘The Divine Comedy’ (‘Dante XXI’), ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (‘A-lex’), and the German Expressionist masterpiece ‘Metropolis’ (‘The Mediator between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart’). Talk about heavy-handed! Could you seriously imagine the Cavaleras going along with all this if they were still in the band today?

And besides, we’re seeing a great turnaround in Sepultura since 2011’s ‘Kairos’. ‘The Mediator…’ was subsequently better than anyone expected, even with its preposterously long title and slightly muddy production by Ross Robinson. And if this new track from their upcoming album ‘Machine Messiah’ is anything to go by, Sepultura might just strike the remaining haters down with a vengeance.

 

The 90s were the best years for Heavy Metal

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Look, I get it. The 80s was a golden period for Metal, with the trio of Glam, Thrash, and NWOBHM dominating popular music in a way that has never been seen to this day. But as big as they were, Metal’s true global expansion only came in the 90s.

Death Metal emerged from Florida and Sweden courtesy bands such as Death and Entombed, Black Metal broke out of Norway in a flurry of church-burnings, Death/Doom and Gothic Metal made proliferated through the ‘Peaceville Three’ (Anathema, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride), Death Metal further received a melodic treatment through the ‘Gothenburg Three’ (In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, and At the Gates), Industrial Metal started its journey with bands like Fear Factory and Ministry, and Pantera basically set the blueprint for the new wave of American Metal that would follow in the 2000s! And I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting a few more beloved subgenres that were established in this decade.

The point is, Heavy Metal’s genesis and high point may have been in the late 70s and early 80s, but to label the decade that came after it as the ‘worst years for Metal’ just because of the Alternative boom, is sheer lunacy.

 

Meshuggah are stagnating

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Meshuggah have had the same sound for 25 years. There, I said it.

Don’t get me wrong — I LOVE Meshuggah, and their’s are some of the most frequent songs on my playlist! It’s just that ever since the release of their new album ‘The Violent Sleep of Reason’, their music has sort of blended together into a homogenous brew of palm-muted riffs and erratic tempos.

In fact, it can be said that Meshuggah have taken just one sound through slightly different styles — the quasi-thrash of ‘Contradictions Collapse’, the fully-formed extreme-prog style of ‘Destroy Erase Improve’ and ‘Chaosphere’, the down-tuned grooves and polyrhythms of ‘Nothing’ and ‘Catch Thirtythree’, and the mélange of all these influences in ‘obZen’ and ‘Koloss’. And after all this, ‘The Violent Sleep…’ just seems to be a modern update of what they already did in the 90s.

So, where else could they possibly go from here? Their sound is all well and good, but they’ve never really shown any proclivity to go “full Prog” — like say, with keyboards and other instruments, or a completely different change in sound á la Opeth. Plus, they’ve got a fanatical fanbase who are perfectly fine with enabling their same old chug-a-chug sound for another 25 years. This, inevitably leads to stagnation in any band.

I don’t want Meshuggah to get stale like that, and I’m pretty sure you don’t either. I personally would be down to hear a symphonic, prog-rock, or industrial Meshuggah — if only to prevent them from being a victim of their own sound.

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Unpopular Metal Opinions – #1

“The Kids are Alright”: In Conversation with SYMPHONIC ETERNITY

CoS-Pic10Is it possible to resist kids’ TV and advertising these days? Is it possible to avert your child’s eyes from the glut of sanitized, product placement-riddled cartoons and “sitcoms” from seemingly benign behemoths like Disney in favour of something more meaningful… and perhaps, heavy? Well, Symphonic Eternity are here to deliver the heavy to your ears (with a little bit of prog on the side) and prove to you that “the kids are alright.”

Consisting of (now former member as of February 11, 2016) Rohan Raveesh on vocals and guitar, Anish Mukund on guitar, Vijay Ganesan on bass and Anagh Nayak on drums, these dudes are starting to blow the roofs (as well as our minds) off venues in and around Bangalore with their prog-tinged alternative metal. After catching a gig of theirs at the Indigo Live Music Bar in the city recently, Centuries of Sin just had to catch up with these boys to find out more about the band and how they function, especially at such a young age. Our conversation follows below:

 

Hey, guys! Thanks a lot for talking to Centuries of Sin.  

First, just to satisfy a quirk in my mind; why name the band “Symphonic” Eternity? Your music sounds more like a mix of prog-rock and alternative metal to me. Plus, I don’t see any keyboards in the lineup for the “symphonic” part, haha.

Anish: “Symphonic Eternity” basically means “music forever”, and that’s what we intended it to be.

Rohan: “Symphonic” here refers to music in general and not any specific genre.

 

 

To start off, what attracted you guys to heavy and progressive metal music? Especially considering that the kind of music aimed at your age group is mostly kiddie pop and Bollywood songs…

Rohan: I feel that these kinds of music are more realistic than the usual programmed music we hear.

Anish: And a lot more challenging.

Anagh: I like it because it’s complex, heavy and not easy to design and play.

Vijay: I like listening to all types of music, and I like Symphonic Eternity’s music because it’s unique. One also requires a lot of skill to play this kind of music.

 

From what I’ve seen in your gigs, the metal crowd in Bangalore and other cities have received the band very enthusiastically. But have there been times where metalheads HAVEN’T taken you seriously, or have somehow dismissed you as a sort of “bachchu band”, pardon the expression?

Anish: This used to happen before we went up on stage.

Rohan: We started off as a band, when not many people knew of us, other bands used to look at us strangely, wondering what these kids are doing here.

Anagh: After we played on stage though, people would be shocked by our performance because they didn’t expect kids like us to play like that…

Vijay: Well, yeah, what they say is true… but it makes it a lot of fun, seeing their reactions!

 

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Your songs at this point are mostly about “kid stuff” ranging from basketball to bullying. Do you hope to explore deeper subjects and lyrics as you get older? Or have you already started doing so?

Anagh: I think our topics are not really kid stuff or deep either.

Anish: I’m not sure we think about this consciously. We have a new song called ‘Time’ which is about how time is persistent and ‘in-your-face’ constantly. We never planned it as a topic for kids or adults.

Rohan: We’re also working on a lot more songs on different topics, so we’re not really thinking about whether they are “kiddie” topics or not.

Vijay: Our lyrics depict who & what we are and what matters to us. In fact, people of all ages play basketball, so it doesn’t really count as kid stuff.

 

How do you divide your time between jamming and school? I hope the band hasn’t intruded too much into your academics!

Vijay: Hahaha… that we leave to our parents, actually. Moreover, our schools are supportive. We’ve all been doing well in school so there are no problems. We manage to jam at least twice a week most of the time.

 

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Symphonic Eternity Live at Indigo Live | Photo: Sairaj R Kamath

Have you had a chance to introduce friends of your age group to metal through the band? I say that more young blood and fresh fans in the scene are always welcome!

Rohan: Yes, I’ve introduced a lot of friends, classmates, neighbours and relatives to this form of music. Many get scared, but some have turned into metal heads!

Anish: I’ve introduced a lot of my friends to metal, including our own bassist Vijay!!

Vijay: That’s true, and I’ve done the same with a lot of my friends ever since.

Anagh: I’m still in 6th Grade. My classmates think that metal music means all instruments used by the band are ‘made of metal’, hahaha! I’m not having any luck converting friends of my age to metal, but I’ve converted my Mum somewhat!

 

If you’ll allow me to get a little serious here: it’s brutally hard to keep a rock or metal band going in this climate of digital downloads, piracy, lesser gig locations, etc. Plus, to be honest, very few bands here enjoy the family support that you guys have from your (incredibly cool) parents. Have you ever thought about this in terms of the band’s future? Or are you just enjoying your gigs and music as they come?

All: We’re just enjoying the gigs & music as they come. We’re just focusing on making more and more original music.

 


On to some lighter stuff, how has the response been so far to your debut EP ‘Diffusion’ (which if I’m not wrong was also the earlier name of the band before bassist Vijay joined)?

All: Yes, it was the name of the band before Vijay joined us. The response has been great, we think; people who hear the EP have told us that they love it. And at gigs, when we play our songs from it, we see the audience head-banging and grooving!

 

SE-Blurb02Give us an idea of some of the challenges you had with recording this EP, especially at such a young age.

Anish: For me, the hardest part was controlling the sound from my guitar and keeping it clean for the sections that we were recording as continuous takes!

Vijay: Controlling the tone of the electric bass was a bit tough as I was playing with a plectrum at that time.

Anagh: Making sure my sticks don’t collide or fall when I was recording, and some fast double bass sections were the difficult parts.

Rohan: Getting the right tone for my guitar and recording my voice without the band backing me live took a little getting used to. We’re based at Octavium and all our jams and recording happen at the pro-studio there. Cyril Prince, founder & frontman of ‘Grail of Destruction’, produced our EP and helped us through the whole process, making it easier.

 

Finally, what has been your favourite gig till date? Strawberry Fields, Saarang, IIM-B Unmaad? Give us a little recollection.

Rohan: Without a doubt, our gig during the World Music Day celebrations at Alliance Francaise on June 21st 2015.

Vijay: Well yeah, it was a very special gig because we were introduced by Bruce Lee Mani, and our EP was released by him & Jeoraj George!

Anish: We had a full house audience that was rocking with us for every song. It was awesome!

Anagh: Even after the gig, so many people came and congratulated us. Many musicians and members of other bands playing there came and took pictures with us too. It was so much fun.

 

Thanks once again for talking to CoS, you guys. I think I speak for most of the metal scene when we say we wish you good luck with your future endeavours!

All: Thank you so much!

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Check out Symphonic Eternity’s EP ‘Diffusion’ here: https://www.oklisten.com/album/diffusion
Symphonic Eternity’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/symphonic.eternity/
Also browse CoS’ photo album of their performance: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1653213881617712.1073741863.1495988187340283&type=3

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“The Kids are Alright”: In Conversation with SYMPHONIC ETERNITY

IN CONVERSATION: Samron Jude of SYSTEMHOUSE 33 (Part 1)

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Background Photo by Mariel Fonseca

Even though there’s no shortage of things to complain about when it comes to metal music and touring, one positive is that international touring seems to be on the rise for Indian metal bands. Gone are the days when bands could only rely on special competitions like the Wacken Metal Battle; they are now reaching out hard and fast to big agencies and record labels for any taste of international recognition. If you want to hear what that’s like, look no further than Samron Jude, vocalist of Mumbai-based thrash veterans SystemHouse 33.

Oh, and also because we don’t need to keep knocking on Sahil Makhija’s door for answers to questions like these.

After 12 years and 4 albums, Samron sure has a lot to talk about when it comes to SH33’s history, music and touring (and he does love to talk, bless him.) In the first part of this EPIC 45-minute interview, he goes into detail about the band’s upcoming tour with American death metal giants Six Feet Under, and the grueling recording process behind their upcoming new album ‘Regression’.

Hey, Samron! Thank you so much for approaching CoS and taking the time to talk to us!

Absolutely, man. It’s a pleasure! We’d like to spread the word about our upcoming album, and nothing better than this.

I guess those are the two biggest pieces of news surrounding SystemHouse 33 right now: your upcoming album ‘Regression’, and your much-talked about tour with Six Feet Under; which if I’m not wrong is coming this December?

That’s right. We’re leaving on the first of December, and the tour starts on the third.

How about giving us a recap of your experience and reaction to getting the invitation to tour with Six Feet Under?

It’s something we’ve been working on for the past couple of years. It’s really tough being a band in India, and almost impossible to make a career out of it since the audience here is so little. There are no organisations here that regularly do it; not as much as a band would like. We’ve thought about this situation in our country, even though we would love to be popular here.

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SystemHouse 33’s tour schedule for next month’s X-mas In Hell Tour. | Image: Courtesy of Samron Jude

Being a band for about 12 years, we’ve seen a lot of things change, which has led to a lot of bands disbanding over the years. So I personally thought that doing something internationally would be a new prospect for the band. We reached out to a lot of booking agencies and people who are connected with these big bands, and told them about how metal works in India. A lot of big bands like Iron Maiden have come to India in the past 8 years, so people know that there is a metal scene here. With all of that in the picture, we were reaching out hard and fast for offers, and we ended up with the agency that works with Six Feet Under. We were actually going to do this in April, but that got delayed while SFU were doing a tour with Suffocation in Germany, and we thought it’d be better not to do that tour. This [Xmas in Hell] tour is something that’s almost impossible for a band like India to perform.

Of course! Which is why it’s such a big deal!

Yeah! So that smaller tour was cancelled, and although we were already booked on that tour, they offered to switch us to their [Xmas in Hell] tour that they’ve been doing for nine years now. This is a tour that’s very close to them, and it’s the last set of concerts that happen in Germany before the winter takes over there. So when they told us they could give us this [slot], we were like, “wow… we didn’t expect this.” It’s actually good in a way that the tour got delayed, because we’ve been working so hard on this, as well as on the ‘Regression’ album. We actually re-recorded the album in that time.

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SystemHouse 33 in 2015. | Photo: Mariel Fonseca

Oh, really?

Yeah, this is the third time we’ve hit the studio. We’ve scrapped 3 to 4 songs, we’ve wrote 3 songs. We’ve worked so hard on this album; it’s almost like a full-time job, man! I feel like I’m working on it on a daily basis, but that’s actually when it gets more real. It’s not the second thing you do during your day, it’s the first and best thing; when you wake up and all you think about is music and ‘Regression’. It’s the best feeling of confidence that all of us in the band have right now. We’re happy to play with Six Feet Under too, because I feel we’re VERY well-prepared.

I bet! With 12 years and four albums under your belt, I guess you really feel that you can do more international tours now.

We want to! We want to be that band whose music the world can hear, because we can at this point. Even before, we thought ahead and moved to Bombay from Nagpur, which was a tough transition considering that Bombay is a tough place to live in. But we got through that, and I have a feeling we’ll get through this as well, and grow into a band that can make popular music that the people will love.

We also have an audio-only version of this interview on our new SoundCloud:

 

Stay Tuned for Part 2!

IN CONVERSATION: Samron Jude of SYSTEMHOUSE 33 (Part 1)

The Centuries Of Sin (Fan-made) Wallpaper Pack!

If you thought Centuries Of Sin is just a writing and photography blog, THINK AGAIN. I’d like to cover a wide spectrum of media here, and this is my latest project: a range of fan-made wallpapers featuring your favourite bands!

The idea was to use all the photographs featured in CoS with various band logos to design a special set of wallpapers for all you metalheads out there. They are also available in different screen resolutions like 1024×768, 800×600, etc., so that you can avoid that notorious clipping of your desktop backgrounds due to your screen size.

Let’s start off with four sets of bands here: Bhayanak Maut, Providence, Skyharbor and Ne Obliviscaris. A nice choice of local and international. Cheers!

[Note: The following wallpapers are unofficial, fan-made creations. The logos used in the following wallpapers belong to their respective bands. Sairaj R Kamath and Centuries Of Sin otherwise claim ownership of the photographs and overall design used in the same.]

 

Bhayanak Maut

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Providence

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Skyharbor

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Ne Obliviscaris

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Dress up your desktop with these bad boys, and let me know how you like ’em. Send a screenshot to CoS’ comments, Facebook or Twitter if you like.

The Centuries Of Sin (Fan-made) Wallpaper Pack!

Photo Diary: CULTFEST Launch Gig @ The Humming Tree

CoS-Pic04First of all, let it be said that the balls of the CultFest team are worthy of being featured in a Steel Panther album. Being the black sheep that it is in India’s musical landscape, starting up a music festival for Heavy Metal in India is no mean feat in this socio-economic climate. But launching the very first edition of your fetival with two of the biggest death metal bands (OR a death metal and “deathcore” band for all you genre elitists out there) on the planet? GODDAMN. Of course, I will reveal that line-up at the end of this photo diary for dramatic effect, even though half the Indian metal scene and their moms know of it by now.

And so it was with a weird feeling of trepidation mixed with excitement that I drove to The Humming Tree on 100ft Road, Indiranagar on the evening of January 14th for CultFest’s launch gig. Featuring Chase ‘Em Wolves, Cheisrah, Necrophilia and Neolithic Silence (with the launch video set to be screened at the end of the gig), CultFest turned the otherwise “family-friendly” restaurant and lounge into a hotbed of moshing, pig squeals, and loud-arse guitars. And Centuries Of Sin has photographic evidence right here for your enjoyment and/or envy.

 

Chase ‘Em Wolves

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Necrophilia

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Cheisrah

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Neolithic Silence

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(For the full album on the CoS Facebook page, click here.)

Oh, and now for the line-up. CultFest is going to have CANNIBAL CORPSE and SUICIDE SILENCE in Bangalore on April 11th. Commence orgasms.

Order your tickets here.

Gallery

Warrior Within – Best Prince of Persia Game Ever?

prince_of_persia_warrior_within_wallpaper_hd-1600x1200Over the past six months, I steadily came to a realisation; an epiphany, even. The ‘Sands of Time’ trilogy of the Prince of Persia games (I’m not counting The Forgotten Sands here) could be THE BEST GAME SERIES OF ALL TIME. Think of this as an almost 10th Anniversary magic of sorts, after the series’ end in 2005 with The Two Thrones.

Everything from the level design to the combat to the free-running and parkour movement mechanics could keep even the staunchest of game critics relatively quiet while writing their reviews in their parents’ basements. I say “relatively”, because some nitpickers still managed to find small faults with each of the three games, and most of these were unceremoniously heaped on the 2nd entry, Warrior Within. After playing through the three games, I find it slightly unfair that that particular game has to be the black sheep of the ‘Sands of Time’ series. Allow me to share with you my opinion (and I can’t state that word any more obviously) that Warrior Within could in fact be the BEST game of the trilogy.

Oh, and for those of you who were expecting purely metal stuff in this next entry; if an angry Persian warrior slicing his enemies in half like they’re sandwich bread ISN’T metal enough for you, then I don’t know what is.

Also, MAJOR SPOILERS.

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*ARCHITECTURAL SQUEES*

First, the level design. Warrior Within’s Island of Time made vast improvements over Sands of Time’s limited albeit engrossing Palace of Azad. The Island had better spread-out structures, platforms and death traps, with more intricate design and detail. And while I think its dominant colour scheme of reds and browns was a little much, I think it was a small price to pay for how it turned out in the end. The time portals were an ingenious move as well, adding an all-new twist to familiar areas.

But what I loved most about the island was its non-linearity. You could choose which tower you wanted to activate first, you could backtrack through the Empress’ castle to find the well-hidden life upgrades, and you had to find the right time portal to open inaccessible areas. It was easy for you to get lost or ponder your direction within the towers, especially the Mechanical Tower. That one had such a sense of scale and intricacy to it. And for all the good things about the level design of the first and third games, they were still comparatively more linear and restricting.

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"Oye, lads! What say we go grab a shawarma while this Prince bloke sucks our comrade into his shiny knife?"
“Oye, lads! What say we go grab a shawarma while this Prince bloke sucks our comrade into his shiny knife?”

Second, the combat. Sands of Time’s combat system was a little too simplistic; vault-and-slash for the maroon-clothed monsters, vault-off-the-walls-and-slash for the blue-wearing ones. Plus, the final fight with the Vizier was just too anticlimactic. Although it was pretty funny to see all the sand monsters just gormlessly standing around while the Prince made that whole in-fight stunt of absorbing each monster’s essence into the dagger.

Nevertheless, Warrior Within had different kinds of primary swords and secondary weapons, enabled more combat mechanics and combos, and offered a wider variety of enemies for your proverbial hack n’ slash buffet. The three main bosses – Shahdee, Kaileena, and the Dahaka – were easier to defeat once you figured out their attack patterns, but were pretty challenging nonetheless. Kudos to the Thrall and Griffin side-bosses as well.

With respect to Two Thrones, its combat system was a bit indecisive, if not sociopathic. If you ignore the fact that it borrowed aspects from Warrior Within’s environments and gameplay, you’d see that the game made you rely on stealth mechanics and speed kills first like a proto-Assassin’s Creed. But if you failed in these actions and had to switch to melee combat, OH BOY did Two Thrones make you pay for it. You would then have to control a slower, less agile and essentially weaker Prince with an unbelievably low health bar and sand-time limit. And God forbid you alerted the enemy archers while sneaking around the game, unless you wanted to become Persia’s first human pincushion. Sure, the Dark Prince and his daggertail attacks were really cool, but his constant dependence on the sands to stay alive made you break every piece of crockery and furniture in the game like the world’s clumsiest house-guest.

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Now for the story, characterisation and themes. Warrior Within got the spiky end of the review-stick when it came to its darker and angstier themes, which supposedly deceived the fans of Sands of Time’s more mystical and adventurous tone. As a result of this “mis-step”, Two Thrones went out of its way to re-introduce that ‘Arabian Nights’ feel by bringing back Yuri Lowenthal to voice the Prince and involving Princess Farah in the story again. I want to look at this whole story arc from a different angle.

I always thought that Sands of Time’s fantastical theme and aesthetic understated the true nature of the Prince’s actions. Think about it: his own father and his comrades were turned into sand monsters by his releasing the sands, he had to traverse a multitude of death traps and terrains in and around the castle, and he had to personally kill the monster forms of his loved ones by absorbing their sand essence into the dagger. The game included few blood animations and sounds during combat, but that shouldn’t take away from the true grisly nature of his fight with the sand monsters. Add to that the fact that the Prince had no food or drink to fuel him through the game (if you exclude the unexplained “magic water”), and that’s an inhuman amount of physical and mental stress burdened on the poor fellow. While it can be said that his “grand rewind” action at the end of the game effectively nullified these events, he still had the memories of the whole tragedy, and the mental scars can be every bit as severe as the physical ones.

Fast-forward to the events just before Warrior Within. The Prince is recovering from his self-caused cataclysm when the whole Dahaka business crops up due to his fooling around with the sands. Later becoming estranged from his father and kingdom, he is marked for death by a giant time-travelling bogeyman that looked like the love child of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and the Nazgul from Lord of the Rings. At this point, I honestly didn’t know how the Prince’s probable PTSD didn’t reduce him to a quivering heap, curled up on the ground and cutting his wrists to the tune of My Chemical Romance albums. Nevertheless, Warrior Within authenticated his past experiences and portrayed him as a truly hardened and desperate soul, using any means necessary to “change his fate”. I’d venture to say that the game almost had no choice but to go with a darker theme.

Another good thing about Warrior Within is that it had a less linear storyline as well. While Sands of Time and Two Thrones just made you go after the girl (or in the former’s case, with the girl) and defeat the Vizier, Warrior Within had you jumping time periods, mowing down anyone in the way of your survival, and essentially playing against your past self while being the Sand Wraith; all the while not knowing whether to save or kill the mysterious Empress. I think all this made for a gorgeously twisted storyline, with the cherry on the top being the alternate endings.

Two Thrones’ story was fantastical and engrossing in its own right, but I still felt that even with the whole split personality angle with the Dark Prince in it, it was a bit too similar to Sands of Time. The chemistry between Farah and the Prince was forced as well (that elevator sequence was just lame), but the game’s major turn-off for me was Kaileena’s voice acting. Seriously, she sounds like she smoked all the hashish in Persia before narrating the story. Say what you want about Monica Bellucci’s voice acting in the previous game, but she at least brought more clit-balls to the character than in this sequel.

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In the end, is Warrior Within without flaws? Definitely not. Perhaps if it had Two Thrones’ environments and Sands of Time’s natural chemistry, it could’ve more or less become the perfect action-adventure game. But for now, I think it’s the best game of the series so far. And even if you all don’t share my view, I hope you can at least appreciate this black sheep of the series just a little more.

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Warrior Within – Best Prince of Persia Game Ever?

Photo Diary: NH7 Weekender Pune, Day 2

IMG_8341After all those years of waiting, hoping, and offering animal sacrifices to my makeshift idol of Dino Cazares, Fear Factory finally made their first appearance in India as part of the NH7 Weekender music festival. Of course, the flip side was that they gave NH7’s Bangalore edition the snub, choosing instead to perform at the Pune and Delhi editions. And so, after a lengthy bus ride to the city with my backpack and DSLR, I finally found my way to Day 2 of NH7 Weekender Pune on November 22 to catch the Industrial metal giants.

What I didn’t know was that I would have a bigger treat than usual that day, since the Bacardi Arena and Red Bull Tour Bus stages that day played host to a great number of India’s in-house metal talent like The Down Troddence, Zygnema, Providence and Bhayanak Maut, as well as the later sets by International players Skyharbor and Fear Factory. And today, I’d like to present a small photo diary featuring some of my own pics of that day’s performances. What you’ll see here is the result of a Canon EOS 1100D camera, a LOT OF PUSHING through NH7’s crowd, and some image-processing trickery.

 

Providence:

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Skyharbor:

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Fear Factory:

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Yes, I could’ve clicked pictures of the rest of the line-up… but come on, I wanted to mosh too.

See the rest of the pictures here on my personal profile:
Providence: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.937007102977586.1073741833.100000049155169&type=1&l=3a4a97496d
Skyharbor: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.934126466598983.1073741830.100000049155169&type=1&l=7487f35342
Fear Factory: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.934841233194173.1073741831.100000049155169&type=1&l=532aacbe61

Gallery