Will Haven – Voir Dire

(Bieler Bros)

I tend to get a little bit worried once an album gets the kind of smoke blown up its arse that Voir Dire seems to currently be receiving on a daily basis. A band like Will haven, who fans and reviewers (including myself) feel have never made the kind of dent they should have done, returning after a long absence, with their original vocalist intact. Throw in a follow up to a slightly disappointing last album and you have a perfect recipe for hyperbole.

It’s not surprising really, a band who mean as much as Will Haven to a lot of people, we all want them to do well, we will it into being. Fans are notoriously dreadful at remaining objective about the object of their affection, and Will Haven have always gathered a devoted fanbase. I myself have bitter memories of garnishing ‘The Heirophant’, their lacklustre last album, with lavish praise in a hastily written review, before realising a scant few listens later that it was all a bit emperor’s new clothes. As for this latest effort, it has been out for a few days and all the Will Haven fans I know are either garnishing their social media timelines with gushing praise, or rushing to their keyboards to offer winsome homilies. Possibly some of them are even taking to their rooftops to shout about it to passing strangers, or commandeering supermarket tannoys to scream ‘I love Will Haven and I don’t care who knows!’ with all the gusto their weed-addled lung capacities can allow.

As for myself, well the video for first song ‘Mida’s Secret’ hadn’t really whet my appetite hugely. It was good, but wasn’t the hefty beast I was hoping for, sounding more like something from their hometown friends Deftones. Oh, and there’s that rather cheap looking cover, which surely has to rank alongside Opeth’s dreadful recent effort as one of the more calamatious pieces of cover art this year.

As I waited for my Amazon download to complete, I was trying to maintain my composure, for here at Demon Pigeon we like to pretend we’re cooler than frozen shit we take things seriously and calmly. I was not going to be sucked in by the hype, no matter how many mainstream magazines put up video blogs about it. I am going to set aside my own high hopes, and be a good objective reviewer.

This attitude lasts until about four seconds into second track ‘When The Walls Close In,’ whereupon the dribbling fanboy in me is roundly clumped in the head by a riff of such startling density that it sends me instantly back to when this band were to my mind the best band in the world. I can no longer be objective about this album because it represents absolutely everything I wanted it to. From the moment it starts hurling monolithic riffs around it delivers, Jeff Irwin’s ghostly razor sharp guitar tones entwining with the heftiest bass sound in existence and those mammoth sounding drums to produce something remarkable for Grady to wrap his turtured vocal chords round.

Oh how they missed Grady. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Jeff Jaworski as a vocalist, but in Grady Avenell Will Haven had and have again a vocalist of staggering ability. Grady manages to elevate hardcore vocals into an expression of complete open-chested rage, hopelessness and anguish, like a man pouring his entire life into a microphone with such urgency that it can barely contain the result. Married to the rest of the band it is such a perfect fit, the likes of ‘Lives Left To Wither’ just so crushingly, emotionally heavy as to make the rest of the world seem like a pale photocopy of itself, with none of the urgency this band can manufacture from the simplest of riffs. In the context of the rest of the album ‘Mida’s Secret’ too is elevated from a good song to an atmospheric ice pick, demonstrating how well the band pays with dynamics, as in at times they are atmospheric, the rest of the time they are atmospheric and brutal.

By the time I reach the third and fourth listen to the album I can feel my heart rate rising throughout the album’s progression, the heft of the sound getting into my very core. It makes you feel so invincible to the extent that I would advise against driving while listening to it, lest you suddenly imagine yourself as Vin Diesel hurling muscle cars around corners with reckless glee. As soon as it ends with the bleak and somewhat apocalyptic ‘Lost’ I can only do one thing, hit play again.

It may be that I and everyone else are wrong yet again, but I sincerely doubt it. Three months to go I think the results are in.

Will Haven: Return of the Year, Album of the Year, Band of the Year. Sorry everyone else.

10/10

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The Pokémon Letters: Chapter VI

Editor’s Note:

Hi.

If you’re still reading after last week’s wedge of words, then you have my congratulations. Fortunately, you were not expecting the trend to continue. Since when has Demon Pigeon ever approached anything like consistency?

As everybody far and wide now knows – or would know if you fucks would throw us a frigging like or a retweet now and then – my good chum and Pokénerd extraordinaire Owen Grieve is accompanying me through a game of Pokémon Red/Blue. All along we have shared our thoughts and feelings via these wonderful collectible letters, which will soon be made available as a commemorative teatowel set.

Join us as we fight, feed and fuck our way to Pokémon glory.

This week: Fuchsia City

Dear Owen,

This week, NOELOXFORD headbutted a snake to death.

Yours,

Noel

Click here for Owen’s reply!>>

The Pokémon Letters: Chapter V

Editor’s Note:

If we’re late this week (and I suspect we will be) you can once again blame me, this time for vastly underestimating the time commitment involved in a game of Pokemon Red/Blue, and also for ignoring absolutely every piece of advice my comrade Owen Grieve tries to offer me. 

For the past few weeks, we have been trudging through this children’s computer game, hand-in-hand, our Game Boys tethered, and our penises docked. All along we have been discussing, right here in public, what I am disingenuously agreeing to call ‘the experience’.

It’s been a long, long road. So far, my in-game clock shows over 24 hours, which some of you will recognise as the same number of hours it takes to get through 24 Sainsburys oven-ready lasagnes in a row. Although time spent alt+tabbed into pornography, or distracted by that weird woman on Masterchef, is not accounted for in that total. So the truth may never be known.

Not that I resent throwing my dwindling supply of time away on this nonsense, mind you. I assume somebody out there is reading and enjoying all this. Somewhere. Also, this one is long. Too long.

This week: Saffron City!

Dear Owen,

Fucking hell. What a chore.

You graciously warned me via The Tweets that I’d need to get cracking early doors on this week’s episode. So, because I’m intelligent, I started this chapter on Wednesday instead of Thursday. Forward thinking, you see. Turns out it still wasn’t enough time.

There’s fucking tons to be getting on with, so let’s just plough in, and I’ll try and pick up your questions from last time as we go.

♂COBRA♂ quits the Celadon gym, leaving the shattered remnants of his heart on the floor. Off he goes, look, out for a melancholic stroll around town, set to REO Speedwagon. This Team Rocket jackass is instantaneously up in my grill. I remember these goons from Mt. Moon, but I don’t remember what they were doing.

Somewhere or other, we pick up the word that Rocket are running a gambling joint in town, so at least we know where to look for trouble.

This is that restaurant you mentioned, isn’t it? I can’t honestly remember how old I was when I first ordered a meal by myself, but I’m undecided how I would feel about the locations in this game if I was playing it as a child. Would it feel like a glimpse into an enticing grown-up future of hotels and casinos; or would it just feel boring to be kicking it around cafés and museums? I’m not sure.

I can kind of see the overall metaphor for personal growth and change (especially when you consider the backbone of the game is the idea of evolution), but the problem with that is summed up for me by the little hotel encounter you detailed last week. A kid looking at this game from the perspective of a kid is pretty well guaranteed to miss that point, consciously at least. And I wonder how many of this game’s older players honestly give a moment’s thought to things such as that over and above the thirst for violent conflict and sexual repression which drives sales of almost every wildly successful computer game series, this one especially. That’s not simply rhetorical bollocks, either, I’d genuinely like your insight.

I forget where this happened, but what we’re seeing here is Pokéworld’s equivalent of Wikileaks, cheerfully shredding Team Rocket OpSec.

On second thought, Owen, perhaps you are right about the theme. Like pretty much every ‘adult’ experience, the Rocket casino is initially enticing and mysterious…

…but upon closer inspection, it turns out to be just another soulless battery farm for idiot-cash. No child is dim enough to be impressed by this.

I’ll let you guess how quickly I got bored of this, and how close I got to winning even the shittiest of the ‘prizes’ on offer.

Thank god we picked up that clue from wherever it was, eh readers? This guy immediately pounces on us – naturally, he gets immolated, and then he runs away. Cool guard.

This marks the beginning of three particularly shitty sections of this game, to which I am cursing you for introducing me.

Tons of fights, tons of wandering around, a weird maze that reminded me of a sliding puzzle, and two more fights – and then, the big denouement…

…another fight!

Now I’ve netted the Silph Scope, that means I can go back to Lavender and tackle that tower and get whatever thing I’m supposed to get there.

Instead, I wander everywhere I can trying to find a way to get to the end of this episode without feeding an entire evening to it. Turns out it needed two evenings and a late night, but oh well. Eventually, I pitch up in Saffron – after resolving a weird crisis involving dry-mouthed border guards – spy the gym, and imagine my troubles are over.

How naive of me. I thought we just cleared out the entire Team Rocket headquarters. So what does that make you, a refugee? An asylum seeker? A drifter? I pay taxes, you know. I don’t have to stand here and listen to your garbage. Why don’t you get a real job, and then we’ll both be out of one another’s way?

Our appeal to this young man’s decency and self-respect falls on deaf ears, and we are forced to find another way to evict him.

Broken Britain, 2011.

Fucking hell fire, eh? Click here for page 2!>>

Red State

If you were to look up ‘unfulfilled potential’ in the Dictionary then, well, you’d have to look in two separate places. ‘Unfulfilled Potential’ is a collection of two seperate words that are not alphabetically close together. That is how a dictionary works, you see, with individual words, but then you knew that, right? If that was how a dictionary worked though, then the phrase ‘unfulfilled potential’ would doubtless have two images next two it. First would be a picture of the Demon Pigeon writing staff, the other would be a picture of Kevin Smith. Actually, that’s probably not true either. We don’t really have that much potential, as I believe I have ably demonstrated with this opening paragraph.

For many a year I considered myself to be quite the Kevin Smith fanboy, something that seems slightly embarrassing now to my slightly less puerile self. In my defence, when people think of Kevin Smith now they quite understandably think of the loudmouth idiot who makes subpar mainstream American comedies mainly as a way to keep up his profile enough to retain the level of celebrity that has somehow come to him. It wasn’t always the way; back when I was first entering the world of work as a part time employee of Blockbuster Videos, the dusty VHS of Clerks blew my mind. Nowadays it looks like a well written but poorly executed ultra low budget film, its impact diminished by every filmmaker who used it as a stepping stone.

To me it was as revolutionary as any film I had ever seen, and throughout my twenties Smith remained something of a hero to me. Yes his films became less relevant, less funny, less confrontational, but they did at least remain enjoyable watches. The caustic language may have remained but the rebellious intent seemed to diminish, Chasing Amy somehow managing to fudge its message of tolerance in a haze of lesbian jokes, Dogma losing its way due mainly to some very generic visual work and a messy plot. Then came Jay and Silent Bob strike back, which is all laughs and zero substance, as popcorn as all the eighties comedies Clerks felt like a rebellion against. But it was still funny at least, and as I watched it in hazy smoke filled rooms it still fit. Ever since though, Smith’s films have felt a bit like watching a drunk playing darts on ketamine;

Jersey Girl – double twenty!

Clerks 2 – 180! Good show fella, I knew you had it in you.

Zach and Miri – Oh, you appear to have missed the dartboard there old chap, maybe leave off the drinks, eh? Oh, nope, you’re going for the ketamine again are you?

Cop Out – Argh, my eye, my eye! What the fuck did you do that for?

For a while after the critical drubbing Cop Out received, Smith himself seemed to be distancing himself from films for a bit. He publically argued with every critic ever, he slagged off the distribution companies, even found the time to argue with an airline. He threw himself into comics, podcasts, Q&As and autobiographies; a man on constant transmit mode falling fully into all the things that had distracted him enough to ensure he hadn’t made a great film in years. I, like many of his fans, turned my back, my memories somewhat sullied. So where does that leave us for this, his return to the big screen?

Thankfully, the process of cleansing myself of all Smith’s transgressions clears the way for what is his best film to date. Dark, twisted, funny, violent, visual; this is an outburst of a film, a howl of rage projected on screen. The story starts with three typical Smith teenage voices, joking and awkward and girl obsessed, but soon they have fallen into a honey trap set up by a far-right religious cult. From our first introduction to Michael Parks as the grinning maniacal cult leader, in a monologue as good as has graced the cinema screen in a decade, you immediately wonder why Smith hasn’t been making films this intense the whole time rather than wasting time dressing up as Batman and running around with his friends. If Smith’s recent scripts have felt a little lazy then this is him at his invective best, the speech perfectly judged and excellently delivered. After this stomach turning speechifying and a oppressively dark payoff the film lurches up a gear, and when John Goodman and the ATF turn up the film powers into life. Either Smith has hired an excellent cinematographer or he’s finally learnt how to point a camera properly because the direction here is unlike anything he’s previously done, menacing and grubby and close.

For all its breakneck action, however, this is not a film about the power struggle between two opposing sides; it’s about the victims caught in the middle, through family, through foolishness or just dumb luck. This is America’s split personality in full flow, with neither side prepared to back down an inch no matter the cost to the little people caught in the middle. Everyone is locked into their roles and grimly approaching their fate with a crushing inevitability.

That Smith never feels the need to steer into the conventional resolution is to his eternal credit, and come the final credits this reviewer was left feeling a little punch drunk and off kilter, which was not a sensation I ever expected this filmmaker to engender in me again. The only thing about this film to disappoint (aside from a slightly jarring gear change to the final act and some slightly tedious gunfights) is the sense that Smith has been wasting his time all these years making comedies that balance out their saccharine sweetness with pointlessly course humour. Or maybe he needed to reach a certain point to find this kind of film from deep within him. Whatever the case may be, I sincerely hope this is the start of a new chapter in his career, and I can feel slightly less sullied by my appreciation of the man.

Deep Stealth in the Secret Boys’ Club

computer games are for children

Demon Pigeon readers, I come to you a frantic husk of a woman, having shortly returned from Eurogamer Expo 2011. Billed as ‘the UK’s biggest dedicated video games event’, I was not expecting to return from this experience in any way bettered as a person. However, I instead feel as if I have suffered a great blow. My therapist reports to me that writing may be a way for me to work through the emotional trauma of the event, so that I may move on.

The first warning sign should have been that Eurogamer approved our press pass in the first place. Indication is that if they take a website such as this to be a legitimate source of news then they might just be fucking crawling up the walls. Nevertheless I recruited spunky young Daniel to accompany me on our computer game odyssey to Earl’s Court to play some computer games in a feigned and pathetic attempt to feel as if we were part of a cancerous industry of cretins. Unfortunately, Daniel was lucky enough to have been issued a bum ticket, leaving me to go forward alone to the great unknown.

Wow
Nabbing my press band and walking out onto the Expo floor – narrowly dodging clumps of dickheads sitting on the floor trading Pokémon with their Nintendo DS’s – I queued for 30 minutes to play my first children’s computer game of the day: Mass Effect 3. The demo featured Commander Shepard fighting a heap of generic peeved Cerberus soldiers and mechanical devices. Running from cutscene to cutscene trying not to get blooded seemed the general technique. I guess I was underwhelmed, not only because I’d seen it all before, but because the game seemed fairly identical to the second, the only difference being that they’d taken out all opportunity to chill the fuck out.

I guess the demo was selected to showcase the fast-paced action and close quarters gameplay that so many seemed to believe was sorely needed in the series, but it removed all of the charm of the previous games, in that not once during the demo did you actually get the opportunity to admire set-pieces like the sprawling alien worlds – framed just over a waist high wall – on the horizon. The demo actually turned out to be exactly the same demo that had been released at E3 2011 and various other events this year, meaning that the exclusive information I expected turned out to have been a radically wild assumption on my part. This new understanding made not only the queue, but the entire day redundant.

"Nice hat!" -"Thanks! I bought a shirt, too!"
Perhaps I’d made a mistake in coming here.

I took a traipse over to the Nintendo 3DS booths. As you might remember from my ‘review’ (pahaaa) of E3 I haven’t really ever properly gotten down and dirty with Nintendo consoles quite like I have others, but since they were previewing my favourite game (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater) in glorious 3D I decided I’d have a look anyway. After fumbling around in the dim with the 3DS’s knobs and ridged edges I finally found what they called the ‘sweet spot’…and got not much more than some bits of computer game grass poking slightly out of the screen, and Naked Snake’s bum-bum wobbling up and down as he shuffled along the dirt.

Wow hey, the sophistication of the 3DS’s technology had been vastly overstated in order to generate hype for the product! Woah.

Have fun.

Not particularly wanting to stand in line for another thirty minutes in the sweltering fumes of unwashed teen, I explored the 18+ zone of Eurogamer Expo.
But walking around there, amongst the Battlefield 3, the Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, the Saints Row The Third, the generic spray and pray third person ‘muscle-man-in-a-big-mattress-costume’ shooters, I came to a shocking realisation, readers – I fucking hate computer games. I would have rather dived head first into a reservoir filled with brony shit than spent a moment longer at the Eurogamer Expo 2011: a place where people willingly, enthusiastically paid money and queued for prolonged periods of time in order to have advertising and marketing spaffed in their faces.

So I left.

Fuck you.

SHIT/10: Don’t fucking go. Ever. Stay at home and wipe your bits on someone. Have a cup of tea. Call up your mother. But don’t go here. NO. Don’t.

The Pokémon Letters: Chapter IV

Editor’s Note:

Because he wishes to replicate the sensation of trying to coax a recalcitrant toddler into an uncooperative cagoule, computer game writing-man Owen Grieve has set himself the challenge of trying to encourage me, a handsome and noted ludological sceptic, through Pokemon Red/Blue, a computer game aimed at 10-year-olds. He’s having more success than I’d have imagined, delays notwithstanding.

We’re a week late because of extenuating circumstances I feel disinclined to explain, which may include – but not be limited to – my neglect to save my game at the end of the last chapter,  and also I hate this fucking game. Nevertheless we will try to be on time from now on! Let’s see how long that promise stands up.

I bet I’m not even halfway through yet, am I?

This week: Celadon City!

Dear Owen,

I’ve labelled this week’s update Celadon City, but it seems like I spent more time faffing about in caves and other gloomy environs. I guess you’re right that I should take a little more notice of the friendly and innocent people around me, if only to get some inkling of where I should go next. But every conversation in this game is like standing on the wrong side of a locked door, trying to read an entire novel by peering through the letter slot, even though only one single sentence is relevant or interesting (and I use both of those words advisedly). So I just blindly stumbled about, fought a shitload of people, and then I got waylaid in… well, you’ll see.

Perhaps after last episode’s admission that I now understand the conceptual appeal of Pokémon, you anticipated a more engaged and interested partner in our quest. I regret to inform you this is not the case. But I hope you are pleased that I am at least grappling with the ‘RP’ aspect of the ‘JRPG’, in directing my character as if he were Clint Eastwood with a great deal on his mind. It makes the simple world and the easy battles much more palatable if one remains deliberately aloof. Keep things small and in perspective, you see.

I’ve run out of pithy and jocular opening remarks, so let’s crack this week’s pokétome and see what took me so long.

With Captain America down, I ensure that our victory is immortalised, chiselling ♂COBRA♂’s signature into a pillar with one of WINTERBORN’s discarded hatchling-fangs.

I can’t remember where or why this takes place, nor who that guy is, but I do recall something about a guy who’ll critique your Pokémon nicknames. He can try, is all I’ll say.

I think it’s on the east of Vermilion we run into a little problem. I don’t get why I can’t just set fire to it, and USELESSBOB’S cut is equally impotent. My screenshots folder indicates that we went all the way back to Pewter City which, in an uncharacteristic moment of attention-paying, I realise was where we began. This suggests a degree of freedom to explore, and I’m a bit unimpressed. I’d rather just be funnelled ever onward, to be honest. It’s not that I can’t orienteer my way around an imaginary island full of weird animals, it’s just that I can’t be arsed.

I guess we made our way here. I honestly can’t remember the details. The process of cutting a shrub down is significantly more convoluted than the above screenshot triptych would have you believe.

I think myself very clever, as we cut through another shrub and sneak past a young lady who looks as if she is spoiling for a fight. I don’t need the hassle. I didn’t ask for any of this you know.

Augurs badly for the overall progress of this update that I apparently forgot to screenshot the brilliant joke I thought up for this bit. To light our way through the darkened caverns of wherever, we must first capture an electronical Pokémon and then bestow the gift of flash upon him. So we get a Voltorb and nickname him SCOTTSTAPP, in memory of our beloved brown-cowhide betrousered saviour who will forever have his arms wide open. He flashes. Everyone goes blind.

I know enough.

There’s quite of lot of cavern to cover, but it’s really drab to look at, and nothing of any real interest happens, besides a ton of fights, a couple of faints and some sneaking.

Um.

Ah, I now recognise this as the place where this week’s episode got shunted into a siding while I concentrated on other things like… shut up. Due to hitting the end of the usual travel-city-gym progression, I figure we’re where we need to be, so we mindlessly plunge through this door, and find ourselves in a weird place indeed – a Pokémon mausoleum.

Maybe you should get a grip.

Jesus Christ. You people are sick.

We head upstairs or downstairs or somewhere, I dunno, and look who it is.

I actually recognised AVIRGIN before the game even told me who he was. See, Owen? I am interested.

If anything, the battle is even more trivial than last time.

Somewhere along the way he’s picked up this monstrosity. I’ve taken quite a few unused screenshots of Pokémon I thought looked funny or stupid or just really fucking shitty, and they’ll remain unused because none of them look as half-arsed as this thing. Half a dozen eggs in a cluster, and it’s called EXEGGCUTE. Wow, where do Nintendo get their crazy ideas?!

Anyway.

Hopefully by next week, you’ll accomplish the task of leaving me alone.

To cut a dull story short, I ended up wandering around lost in here for a fairly long time, not sure what I was doing or why. Every couple of steps I would suffer a spooky moment with a g-g-g-ghost – that I couldn’t do anything but run from – and a bunch of irritating battles with creepy nuns; all of which eventually triggered my gag reflex and left me no choice but to quit and refuse to play the game for a whole week and then be unpleasant and vague about it on Twitter.

Still, we got there eventually.

A mysterious benefactor possesses the mortal form of OWENGRIEVE and gives us a boon of knowledge.  We abruptly realise that we’re burning down the wrong tree by hanging around in Lavender. One simple, hasty detour, and the entire chapter slips beautifully into gear. Welcome to Celadon.

Almost immediately, I spot the gym. Knowing that success here will buy me a day or two of freedom from this game, I decide we might be in with a shot.

I respect your honest enthusiasm, four-eyes.

He wasn’t lying either, it totally is. Although these sound more like teenagers.

Oh boy.

♂COBRA♂’s got a catch in his throat, and his mouth is too dry to swallow. He doesn’t want to fight her, he wants to love her. And at the same time, he wants to impress her with his prowess. He couldn’t care less about the Pokémon league. He knows that now. It was all leading him here, every trainer battle, every badge, every poké ball; to a mere fragment of time between the boy and the man, one plane and the next. If anywhere in all this crazy world there’s a woman to crack ♂COBRA♂’s granite heart on the basis of her name alone, then COOLTRAINER♀ is surely she.

It can never be, he realises, crushing the life from the ember before it can even begin to smoulder. His destiny is locked, as if on rails. They clash as rivals, not as lovers, not even as friends. The Pokémon League covers ♂COBRA♂’s life like a blanket of poisonous fumes, exacting its toll on every single corner of his mind as if it were a starving god. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is special. ♂COBRA♂ knows he must find the will to feed even this, the fragile bloom of his emerging love, into his strange god’s unfathomable maw.

Fortunately for our league hopes, COOLTRAINER♀ doesn’t stand a fucking chance.

This is Erika, who seems like a nice lady. But she’s standing in my way. Which means she’s dragon food.

That tiny chip off WINTERBORN’s health is the sum total of the damage she was able to deal. But it’s hard to feel cocky when she’s being so polite about it.

And with that, we turn our back on the ladies of Celadon Gym – and one in particular – leaving them to their fate, whatever it may be. And as we pass the pillars:

*scratch-scratch-scratch*

Yours,

Noel

Click for Owen’s reply!>>