Overkill Doesn’t Need New Tricks, Sounds To Impress On Its Latest LP

Courtesy:  eOne Music

Courtesy: eOne Music

Veteran thrash metal band Overkill has been making its own brand of rock for nearly forty years. Ever since the band released its debut album way back in 1984, the New Jersey-based band has built its fan base by sticking to what it knows best. Typically, producing the same kind of record with every release is a formula for a band’s demise. But somehow, Overkill has managed to disprove that formula with every release. That includes its latest full length studio effort White Devil Armory. This album, the band’s seventeenth (yes, seventeenth) presents a band with just as much drive and fire within its members as when it first started out all those years ago. Every one of the songs included in the recently released deluxe edition of White Devil Armory exemplifies just how much this band seems to still have in its tank. Collectively, they show that this band still has plenty of fuel left in its tank. It is definitely a candidate for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s best new hard rock and metal albums.

A close examination of White Devil Armory reveals that this band still has plenty left to offer the metal community in whole. The thrash sound that audiences have come to know on the band’s previous releases is just as prevalent here as in those records. One of the best examples of why that sound makes this record works comes in the form of ‘Pig.’ This full throttle rocker will make any true metalhead proud. The full-on assault of guitarists Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer is the heart of this song. It displays what once made metal great. It is just solid shredding. Period. There is no down-tuned, crunchy sound here (or anywhere throughout the album). It’s like taking a musical trip back to a better era of music. And vocalist/found member Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth’s vocals are just as strong as he sings, “Listen to the horn blow/Up against the night glow/Someone left the bodies in the garden of the war show/Dig a grave or foxhole/Pile up the dead souls/Someone saw the bodies/Call damage control/Better get to know my name.” That first section of the song’s opening verse comes across as a not so lightly veiled commentary about the war in the Middle East. That could very well be wrong of course. It is, as always, just this critic’s own interpretation. The second half of the verse strengthens that argument, though. Ellsworth sings in the verse’s second half, “The big celebration is getting me high/Feel the sensation of just getting by/Don’t know the answer/But I know the game/Treat them well/Give them hell/Buy and sell/Welcome to the rodeo-Pig.” It almost comes across as making commentary about politicians orchestrating everything as he sings, “Treat them well/Give them hell/Buy and sell.” That line alone makes one think about the backhanded politics and politicians that lead the wars into which American forces are thrown. The ferocity of the song in its own way adds even more fuel to that fire. Again this is just one critic’s own interpretation of this song. It would definitely be interesting to learn whether or not that was what the band was trying to get across to audiences. Regardless, it is without a doubt one of the best moments on this album because of that ability to create such discussion regarding its lyrical content and its balls-to-the-walls sound.

‘Pig’ is one of Overkill’s moments on White Devil Armory. That is thanks to its combination of thought provoking lyrics and no nonsense music. The band presents even more of that no nonsense, full throttle sound in what is another of the album’s high points in ‘Where There’s Smoke.’ This song is another that harkens back to the golden era of speed and thrash metal. It conjures thoughts of classic Anthrax and Metallica with its musical side. On its lyrical side, the song Ellsworth and company create just as much discussion as Ellsworth sings, “Did a lot of damage in a little bit of time/I was running out of smiles/With two feet inside the crime/Finger pointing at me in the name of good and right/When I’m standing in the darkness/Turn on the f&%#!&% light.” He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “I was solid locked and loaded/Ready for the brawl/Standing in the killing field/Just outside the wall/Caught the scent of devil/Burning in the night/So I’m waiting in the shadows/Turn out that f&%#!&% light.” There is almost a sense of introspection about Ellsworth’s past here. The lines “Left the trouble back there in Jersey/Left the rubber just below the chrome” makes the song feel as if Ellsworth is saying his past is his past and he’s only looking straight forward. It’s almost like he’s saying, “Yes, these are things I did. But that’s the past.” This could again be a completely incorrect interpretation. It is just this critic’s own interpretation. Right or wrong, it proves in the long run to be one more excellent example of what makes White Devil Armory just as solid as any of Overkill’s previous records.

‘Pig’ and ‘Where There’s Smoke’ are both key examples of why White Devil Armory deserves to at least be considered for a spot on this and every critic’s year-end list of the year’s best new hard rock and metal albums. One more song that easily qualifies this album for said list is the album’s lead single and semi-title track ‘Armorist.’ It’s no wonder that this song was chosen as the album’s opener and its lead single, too.   Ron Lipnicki’s machine gun-fast drumming and the solid shredding on the part of Dave Linsk and Derek Tailer make this song an instant hit. On a random note, any Doctor Who fans out there will laugh at the fact taht Bobby Ellsworth sounds a lot like one of the Daleks here. The band produced this album itself and was joined by Greg Reely for mixing and mastering. Regardless of who was responsible for this aspect, that effect is a nice touch in this song. Audiences can check out the song’s official video online now via YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_c3GBrWsao. It is a solid opener for the band on this its latest album. And for those that might be new to the music of Overkill, it is just as solid a first impression from what is one of the most legendary bands in the metal community.

‘The Armorist,’ ‘Where There’s Smoke,’ and ‘Pig’ are each great additions to White Devil Armory. Each song proves in its own way why Overkill is still one of the most revered bands in the metal community. They are only a small collective handful of examples of why Overkill is still so popular. The deluxe edition of White Devil Armory includes a total of thirteen tracks. That leaves ten more songs from which audiences can choose as their favorite(s). Regardless of which track(s) audiences choose as their favorite(s), the one thing on which every listener will be able to agree in listening to this album is that it definitely deserves to be included on any critic’s year-end list of the best new hard rock and metal albums. The band is currently wrapping up the North American leg of its tour in support of its new album. It will wrap up the U.S. leg of its tour with a pair of dates at the Palladium in Worcester, MA next Thursday and Friday, October 16th and 17th before taking some time off to recharge in preparation for the European leg of its tour. That leg begins Thursday, October 30th in Barcelona, Spain. Audiences can get a full listing of the band’s tour dates as well as the latest updates from the band online at:

Website:   http://www.wreckingcrew.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/OverkillWreckingCrew

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Tesla’s Tenth Album More Than Lives Up To Its Title

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

Veteran rock band Tesla has maintained its place in the pantheon of rock for nearly three decades. Throughout the course of that time, so many other bands have come and gone leaving little to no mark on the world.  Tesla meanwhile has continued to create memorable songs on its own terms with each one of its albums, increasing its fan base with each album thanks to that continued display of talent and ingenuity on each record.  The band’s latest album, Simplicity, proves that continued ingenuity once again, providing listeners with songs that perfectly match the album’s title both in terms of its music and its lyrics from start to finish.  The album’s opener, ‘MP3′ is proof of that.  The song uses the seemingly endless stream of technological advances seen each year as the basis for a commentary about how technology has done more harm than good for the world.  The equally socially conscious powerhouse rocker ‘Time Bomb’ proves that this band can still hold its own with today’s younger bands and do so with ease for that matter.  Those that might want something softer but still holding some substance need look no further than the moving but still thought provoking ‘Life is a River.’  It’s one more example of how Simplicity more than lives up to its title with its mix of gentle music and inspiring lyrics.  Each one of the songs noted here proves in its own way why Simplicity lives up to its title.  Each one also proves why Simplicity could be a contender for a spot on this critic’s list of the year’s top new rock records.  And that isn’t to discount the album’s other songs, either.  Every song on this record proves those arguments, too.  Together with the songs that are noted, this album proves to be very much a sleeper hit of a record.

Tesla’s new record Simplicity–its tenth overall full length studio effort–is a sleeper hit of a work.  The album mixes deep and thought provoking lyrics in every one of its fourteen total tracks with music that will have fans both on their feet rocking along at some points, and almost shedding tears of joy in others.  The album’s opener, ‘MP3′ is one example of that balance of substance in its lyrics and music together.  Front man Jeff Keith sings in this socially conscious song, “Reachin’ out to a friend in need/Is more important than a text from a cell phone screen/All these sounds of complication/In the cloud communication/Oh my god it’s taking me/From the phonograph record to the MP3/All the world is overrun with technology/Oh my God it seems to me/We gotta get back to simplicity/It’s plain to see/Rewind now!”  Keith makes no bones here about the topic being raised.  He is saying that technology has done more harm to the world than good.  He isn’t necessarily trying to preach and say technology is bad.  Don’t misinterpret that.  What he is saying is that humans have allowed technology to control their lives and the end result being a drastic depersonalization of people’s relationships on every level.  That Keith would present such a deep concept in such a simple (there’s that word again) makes the song the perfect choice to open this album.  The song’s equally simple and accessible musical backing adds to that argument, too.  Both aspects together make ‘MP3′ just part of the argument as to why Simplicity is an aptly titled release and also one of this year’s sleeper hit records.

Tesla’s members–Jeff Keith (vocals), Frank Hannon (guitar, vocals, piano, bass), Dave Rude (guitar, vocals, bass), Brian Wheat (bass, piano, vocals), and Troy Lucketta (drums and percussion)–prove right from the beginning of this record why it more than lives up to its title and why it is one of the year’s sleeper hits, thanks to ‘MP3.’  The combination of the song’s simple to understand yet still deep lyrics alongside its equally simple, accessible musical backing make it the perfect first statement from the band on this record.  Just as strong of an argument in support of Simplicity is ‘Time Bomb.’  This hard rocker is one part social statement and one part call to arms.  Keith sings in this song, “It’s like the lights are on but nobody’s home/There’s no other choice/Just one solution/So load up your guns/Cause freedom is won/It’s time we’ve begun a revolution/We’re ready to fight to save our lives/And willing to die/Oh no.”  He goes on to sing along with his band mates in the song’s chorus, “Let’s go deep into the fire/Screamin’ hell no we ain’t gonna run/Let’s go united all together/Cuz I know divided we’re done.”  He comes across as saying that Americans have got to put all of this political and other turmoil aside; that there are much more important things that unless we band together, will most certainly take us all down thanks to our division.  Just as with ‘MP3,’ that lyrical and musical simplicity serves once again to prove how much Simplicity lives up to its name in more ways than one.  Even more, it proves once more why this record is one of the year’s sleeper hits within the rock world.

Tesla proves throughout the course of Simplicity’s fourteen total tracks just why it lives up to its name with plenty of hard and hard-hitting songs.  That’s evident in the songs already noted and in the likes of the equally socially conscious ‘Flip Side!’   For all of that heavy lyrical and musical content, Simplicity proves that it can be hard and hard-hitting without actually being hard, too.  Case in point is the moving inspirational song ‘Life is a River.’  This song epitomizes the statement made years ago by Black Label Society front man Zakk Wylde when he noted that a song can be heavy without actually being heavy in terms of its music.  It presents the message that just because someone sees something one way doesn’t necessarily make it so.  As he notes in the song’s second verse, “What you think is just a dog/Is one of my best friends/What you see as sawed up logs/Is the house that I live in/What you call a pile of stones/Is the foundation of my home/And we all know there’s nothing sweet as home sweet home.”  He is saying that everything in life is a matter of perception.  And that one’s perception is never the same as another’s.  From there, he gets to the core of the song, telling those listeners that might be suffering emotionally for whatever reason, their perception of life being worthless is their own perception and that life is so much more beautiful than they think.  He sings, “You’ve been left out once again/Standing in the rain/Now you feel you’ve reached the end/And you just can’t stand the pain/Even though you still remain/You’re God’s creation/This I know/Cuz’ life can be so beautiful.”  The ballad-style song perfectly builds up to that conclusion, making the song’s lyrical content so hard hitting even in its simplicity.  Once again, there is the argument as to Simplicity more than living up to its title.  The lyrics are simple to understand. And the music is so powerful in its own simplicity.  The two elements together make for one more outstanding statement from Tesla on this sleeper hit of a record.  Together with the previously noted songs (and those not noted directly), Tesla’s members have shown that they still have plenty of fire and that they, too have one of the year’s most surprisingly enjoyable rock records.

Simplicity shows from start to finish just why it more than lives up to its name.  The lyrics and music that make up each of the album’s fourteen tracks are simple in terms of understanding them and understanding what message they are conveying.  Each of the songs on this record are just as enjoyable thanks to their simple yet wonderfully entertaining music.  That combination makes for so much depth and substance.  That’s something that one can rarely say about albums churned out by today’s younger bands and artists.  Keeping that in mind, it proves Simplicity to be one of the year’s most surprisingly enjoyable records and potentially one of the year’s best new rock records.  Simplicity is available in stores and online now. The band currently is scheduled to perform as part of the Monsters of Rock Cruise Miami next spring from April 18th – 22nd.  While fans wait for spring to return, they can keep up with all of the latest tour updates and news from Tesla online at http://www.TESLAtheBand.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.


eOne’s New Peppa Pig Compilation Another Welcome DVD For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  eOne/Nick Jr.

Courtesy: eOne/Nick Jr.

eOne and Nick Jr. released the latest compilation of episodes from Nick Jr.’s family favorite series Peppa Pig this week. Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride was released Tuesday. As with the series’ previous releases, it’s another collection of episodes that the series’ young viewers will thoroughly enjoy. Parents will appreciate it just as much. The main reason that both parents and children alike will appreciate this latest compilation is the episodes’ short run time and collective run time. Another reason that audiences will value this compilation is the same reason as before. That reason is its writing. And last but most definitely not least of all is its ability to connect with its viewers. All these factors together make Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride one more welcome addition to any family’s home library.

The primary reason that audiences will appreciate Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride is the collective run time of the episodes culled for the collection. The total run time listed on the DVD’s case is one hour. There are twelve shorts total included on this disc. That equals to roughly five minutes per short. That is perfect for the show’s younger viewers as it is just long enough to keep the attention of the said audiences. Any longer and young audiences might become disinterested and in turn bored. This would lead parents to have to find other ways to entertain children. Coming full circle, that means that once more the short run time of each short will keep young viewers thoroughly entertained even if only for an hour. Any parent will agree that an hour of having a child entertained is an eternity of peace and quiet. So, kudos are in order for eOne and Nick Jr. for that. By direct connection, the writing in each of the short is another big part of why they will keep young viewers entertained.

The run time of the shorts both by themselves and collectively is just the tip of the iceberg that makes Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride another welcome addition to the home library of any family with young children. The writing continues in these shorts to be another reason for the compilation’s enjoyment. Rather than write shorts that teach moral lessons, the series’ writers continue to write short stories that teach basic concepts for younger audiences. Those concepts include learning how to whistle, learning how to ice skate, and valuing what one has rather than always having to have new and shiny things among many other concepts. The latter of those noted lessons comes in the short “The New Car” while the lesson about ice skating lies in the aptly titled short “Ice Skating.” And “Whistle” teaches young viewers how to whistle. These are simple concepts to adults, obviously. But to a toddler and even pre-school age viewers, these are largely alien concepts. The writers have presented them in ways that make them easy for said viewers to grasp. That applies to the shorts not noted, too. That ease of understanding coupled with the lessons taught in each short add even more value to this DVD. And partnered with the ability of the shorts to connect with viewers, this compilation gains even more value for families with young children.

eOne and Nick Jr. offer parents and children plenty of reason to enjoy Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride thanks to the writing that went into each short and the shorts’ collective run time. The ability of the series’ writers to connect with the show’s young viewers through each short is the cherry on the top of this treat for the whole family. Each episode is written not necessarily from the perspective of Peppa. She is however, the central figure in each short. The resultant effect is that younger viewers will be able to relate more to both her and her brother. As with the writing and run times of each episode, this final factor will help that much more to keep young viewers engaged. And together with those factors, it rounds out the entire presentation, making it again, one more DVD that the whole family will appreciate.

Peppa Pig: The Balloon Ride is available now on DVD in stores and online. More information on this release and others, as well as the Peppa Pig series is available online at http://www.facebook.com/OfficialPeppaPigUS and http://www.peppapig.com/us. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Babar Update Series Compilation Is Wild Fun For Families

Courtesy: eOne/Nelvana

Courtesy: eOne/Nelvana

eOne and Nelvana recently released the first compilation of episodes from Disney Jr.’s children’s series Babar and the Adventures of BadouGone Wild is the first compilation of episodes from Disney Jr.’s continuation of the classic Babar animated series.  And as a first impression, this collection of episodes is a good first impression for those that might perhaps have not even known about this series.  The primary reason that it is such a good first impression is the writing of the included episodes.  Another reason that audiences will appreciate this new DVD is the lessons taught in each of the episodes, which ties directly in to the episodes’ writing.  And last to consider in the overall success of these episodes is their “animation” style.  All three factors put alongside one another reveal why both children and their parents will appreciate this latest incarnation of the classic Babar franchise even if they don’t get Disney Junior on their channel lineup.

The primary reason that audiences of all ages will appreciate Babar and the Adventures of Badou: Gone Wild is the writing incorporated into each of the collection’s eight episodes.  Anyone that has any knowledge of the original Babar series will recall that in the original Babar series, that series’ episodes would consist mainly of stories told by Babar to his children.  They would be in reference to his own childhood.  In the case of this latest series, which originally aired in 2010 on YTV in Canada and on ABC2 in Australia, Babar is there.  But he generally takes a back seat to his 8-year old grandson Badou.  From time to time, the now much older Babar would offer some insight to Badou.  So the show’s creators made sure to not completely stray from the original source material for this series.  Older audiences will appreciate this factor.  Younger audiences will appreciate the fact that the series focuses more on younger figures whereas the younger figures in the original Babar series were merely part of recollections told by Babar.  That balance of the old and new alongside Badou’s own family friendly adventures in the kingdom of Celesteville with his friends shows just how much care the show’s writers took with the series despite its short run.  That result is eight solid episodes whose writing is reason enough by itself to check out this new DVD.

The writing by itself serves as plenty of reason for families to check out this new DVD from eOne and Nelvana.  It pays homage to the original Babar franchise while also advancing the story without losing anything in the process.  On a similar note, parents and children alike will appreciate that some of the episodes in this compilation also include invaluable life lessons.  One example of those lessons comes in the episode “Copy Cat.”  Young zebra Zawadi learns an important lesson about accepting one’s own self for who one is, rather than trying to change one’s own self just to be different from the masses.  On a similar note, “Monkey Camp” teaches young viewers about the differences between people and how those differences make everybody special in their own way.  One last example of those lessons comes in the DVD’s second episode, “Operation Secret Suitcase.”  This episode deals with a very common issue among younger viewers.  It deals with the issue of children losing friends due to moving away.  It’s definitely something to which audiences of all ages can relate.  It also teaches young viewers about jumping to conclusions without all the information on a given subject within the course of the episode.  So, that one is actually a dual hit.

The writing and the themes tied into said writing for the episodes included on this disc are both key factors to its overall enjoyment.  Together, they prove the episodes presented here to have a certain amount of heart and substance.  There is still one factor left to examine in the overall enjoyment and success of Babar and the Adventures of Badou: Gone Wild.  That final factor is the show’s “animation.”  Given, each episode is computer generated rather than hand drawn.  That is the trend in the current era of animation.  In the case of this series though, the computer generated graphics actually stand out if only a little bit from all of the cookie cutter CG-based children’s shows currently filling the television spectrum.  The closest comparisons that can be made here are perhaps to the graphics used in The Garfield Show and Jungle Junction, which is another show currently on Disney Junior’s schedule .  And that is being generous.  That is not meant in a negative connotation, either.  It is simply nice to see that while this incarnation of Babar has long since ended its short run, it is one of few shows out there for kids today that has at least some individuality and originality in its “animation” style.  Together with the themes incorporated into each episode’s script and the writing itself, the show’s graphics are collectively the final piece in the overall presentation of the DVD that makes it worth a watch by viewers of any age.

Babar and the Adventures of Badou: Gone Wild is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Babar-Adventures-Badou-Gone-Wild/dp/B00K2OBZZ8/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1407546469&sr=1-2&keywords=babar+and+the+adventures+of+badou+-+gone+wild.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

BLS, Judas Priest Tied For The Top Spot On The Year’s Top New Hard Rock, Metal Albums List

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Zakk Wylde and his Black Label brethren released early this year what is without a doubt one of the year’s most thought provoking albums.  Musically speaking, the album is classic Black Label Society from start to finish.  Lyrically, it proves to be a work that will most definitely have listeners paying close attention.  Those that have already picked up the album’s deluxe edition will understand why.  Throughout most of the course of the album, listeners are presented with songs centered on some rather deep themes.  By the time the album reaches its end in ‘The Nomad’ however, those themes have turned to a more positive light.  And it all starts with the album’s opener, ‘Fields of Unforgiveness.’  With its mix of heavy guitars and equally heavy lyrics, it makes for quite the opener to the record.  Things eventually take a sharp turn with the equally hard rocking yet rather angry song ‘Damn The Flood’, which seems to see Wylde writing about all the people out there that would try to spit lies as easily as a snake spitting its venom.  By the album’s ultimate end though, the outcome is more positive, with Wylde singing about moving on with life wherever it may lead.  Whether all of these songs came from a personal place or simply as a concept idea, they combine with the album’s musical side to make what is one of the most powerful records that Wylde and his band mates have written to date.

Catacombs of the Black Vatican opens on a powerful note in the form of ‘Fields of Unforgiveness.’  This first impression from the band is what leads one to wonder if this album is indeed a concept album of sorts or if it came from personal experience.  Wylde sings in this piece, “So you think that it’s over/So you think that it’s done/The fields of unforgiveness never die/They’ve just begun/You thought you’d elude life’s sorrow/emptiness and grief/The oceans of life’s contempt/Drown the liars and the thieves.”  That one line concerning liars and thieves is the center point of this song.  It almost comes across as addressing someone that has done something really bad.  The person in question thinks that he (?) has gotten away with said deed.  But as the chorus notes, it’s never over.  “The fields of unforgiveness never die.”  Such a searing indictment set against an equally hard rocking musical backing makes this song one heck of a first impression from the members of Black Label Society on its latest record.

As hard hitting as ‘Fields of Unforgiveness’ proves to be with its mix of Wylde’s trademark shredding and equally searing lyrics, it isn’t the album’s only heavy piece. Just as heavy and hard hitting is ‘Damn The Flood.’ With its equally driving sludge rock sound and its indictment of the proverbial snakes out there, this song stands out as one of the album’s most powerful moments. Wylde sings against the song’s solid, southern sludge sound, “This flood of snakes/The breeding lies/Existence of unjust/Spewing falsehoods as they crawl/Assassins of one’s trust…Poisoned blood manipulates/The bending of one’s will/Assassins of your sacred words/For trust it shall be killed.” These verses could be applied to so many situations. It could be applied to this nation’s political leaders. It could apply to an everyday basis in terms of those that call themselves friends, only to kill others’ trust once those backs are turned. As pessimistic as the song sounds, it’s actually positive as listeners will note in the song’s chorus. Wylde sings in the song’s chorus of dealing with those people and their evil ways. Yet again, it proves in the end to be one of the album’s best moments with that combination of musical and lyrical heaviness. It shows once more Wylde’s long ago argument that a song can be heavy without being heavy.

Through all of the lyrical and musical heaviness that makes up Catacombs of the Black Vatican, those that have the album’s deluxe edition will note that these is a message that through all of the negativity in the world, one can persevere through it all. He sings in ‘The Nomad’ of facing one’s past but moving on at the same time. As audiences will hear, he sings, “I’ve left the past behind/So much more to see/Like a feather to the wind/Wherever it may lead/Wherever it may lead/Where I’ll never know/For I can’t be tied down/I can hear it call.” He is singing about accepting the past and knowing it’s there, but not letting it weigh down an individual on one’s journey in life. Wylde and company exhibit such talent musically in this song. It isn’t the driving, hard rocker that the previously noted songs prove to be. It is more controlled. That more controlled nature makes this song a fitting end to an album that boasts just as much heaviness in its finale as in its beginning. That solid heaviness from start to finish both musically and lyrically prove why Catacombs of the Black Vatican is one of this year’s top two new hard rock and metal albums of 2014.

Catacombs of the Black Vatican is available now in stores and online. It can be downloaded via iTunes here. It can also be purchased at any BLS live show including tonight’s show at the Vogue Theatre in Indianapolis, IN. The band’s current tour schedule and all of the latest news from the band are available online at http://www.facebook.com/blacklabelsociety and http://www.blacklabelsociety.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

eOne’s New Found Footage Thriller Worth At Least One Watch

Courtesy:  eOne

Courtesy: eOne

eOne’s new paranormal thriller The Jungle is a good fit or anyone that is a fan of the found footage genre.  One part Predator and one part The Blair Witch Project, the movie finds a group of filmmakers in a far flung jungle in search of a rarely seen big cat.  The cat in question is a fictional leopard breed apparently.  During their search for the cat, the men encounter a mythological creature of sorts that they did not set out to look for.  It’s definitely a deadly beast, too.  The use of such a script actually makes the movie worth at least one watch.  This will be discussed later.  Another aspect of the movie that makes it worth at least one watch is the overall lack of music.  Its most impactful moment comes not during the movie, but at the movie’s end, believe it or not.  And last but not least of all, despite the complaints of so many audiences, one can say of this movie that unlike certain other movies of its ilk, the figure being hunted is actually seen to a point.  All three factors together make The Jungle a movie that deserves at least a chance if no more.

Writer/Director Andrew Traucki’s script for The Jungle is not one that has exactly received the highest of praise.  The reality of Traucki’s script is that it is deserving of more respect than it has received thus far from critics and viewers alike.  That’s because a closer watch of the movie reveals that Traucki’s script, which is one part Predator and one part The Blair Witch Project, actually throws something of a twist into the story that makes it at least somewhat different from both of the aforementioned movies.  The story doesn’t start out with the main cast in search of some fabled creature.  Rather, they are in search of what is supposed to be a real creature that is simply rarely seen in nature.  Along the way, they just happen to come in contact with a deadly creature that they did not set out to find.  The catch is did they find it or did it find them?  The rest of the time, the men find themselves more focused on catching the creature on film than on their original subject.  The ending won’t be given away.  But it goes without saying that it doesn’t end well.  Audiences will find out for themselves just how badly it turns out when they check out this movie for themselves.

Andrew Traucki’s script for The Jungle is central to the ability of viewers to suspend their disbelief and give the movie a chance.  Another factor that viewers will appreciate in viewing this movie is its overall lack of soundtrack.  This doesn’t exactly play that much of a role during the course of the movie.  But considering the story’s events, the lack of any music even as the end credits roll makes for the biggest emotional impact of all.  Traucki is to be applauded here in his directorial role for such a decision.  It leaves viewers feeling a certain intended emptiness and shock at the events that unfolded over the course of the movie’s near ninety-minutes.  And that effect is perhaps far more long lasting than anything else presented throughout the movie.  That’s not to discount the script by any means.  Rather it just goes to show the often overlooked importance of a movie’s soundtrack or lack thereof in this case.  It’s a model which other movie makers should take into account when adding a soundtrack to their next films.

The last factor to take into consideration in examining The Jungle is subtle, but just as important as the factors already noted. That factor is the appearance of the creature that was being track (or was tracking the men). Unlike so many other movies within the found film genre, audiences actually do get a glimpse of the creature in question that is being followed. In the case of so many other films within this genre, audiences are only told about the subject of the search. They rarely actually get to see the subject being sought. The subject here is seen at least partially. It is seen in the same vein as those really bad videos from people searching in real life for Bigfoot and other such creatures. So as gripping as those sightings are, they are also worth their share of laughs, too believe it or not. They make the movie more worth the watch, even if only slightly so. And along with the movie’s script and wise absence of soundtrack, The Jungle is made all the more worth watching at least once.

The Jungle is available now on DVD in stores and online. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Jungle-Rupert-Reid/dp/B00J5BCV3E/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1405338674&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Jungle. More information on this and other releases from eOne is available online at http://www.entertainmentone.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Hell On Wheels Remains One Of TV’s Top Dramas In Its Third Season

Courtesy:  eOne/AMC

Courtesy: eOne/AMC

eOne will release the third season of AMC’s hit western drama Hell on Wheels next Tuesday, July 15th. It goes without saying that the third season of this standout series is the show’s best yet. And being that the series’ fourth season debuts in just a few weeks, its release is perfectly timed. It gives audiences that have watched the show since the beginning the chance to catch up should they have missed any episodes of this season or the series’ first two seasons. And for those that have not yet seen even the first season, audiences that watch this season will the most important key to its success. That key is the series’ writing. While it is recommended that audiences new to the series watch from Season 1, the show’s writers have done such an expert job that they don’t necessarily need to watch those first two seasons in order to appreciate Season Three. The acting on the part of the cast is just as integral to the success of Hell on Wheels Season Three. The cast has become so accustomed to one another that it has made the acting all the more believable. In turn, it makes suspension of disbelief all the easier, too. And last but not least of all, the bonus material included in this set rounds out the whole package, proving once and for why Hell On Wheels Season Three is one of the year’s best box sets for adults.

Hell on Wheels: The Complete Third Season is one of the best new box sets for adults in 2014. There is so much to like about this set. The most obvious of this season’s positives is the show’s writing. Season Three sees some of the show’s strongest writing to date. That is evident in the character development on the parts of Cullen and especially Eva and Elam. Audiences start to see a much more emotional and human side of Cullen in Season Three. This is especially the case when Cullen is forced to make the choice to hang a young man at one point. The young man’s father tossed him to the proverbial woods after his father had shot the then head of railroad security. Cullen knew he was condemning an innocent boy to death for the sins of his father. The pain in his eyes as the young man was strung up is deeply telling. It shows that Cullen knew that hanging the young man was wrong and that it hurt him badly to see it happen. Such a scene adds to Cullen’s flawed yet sympathetic character. There is another scene shared between Cullen and Elam that shows just as much depth not just of Cullen’s character, but of Elam’s, too. That ties into what is perhaps the most powerful example of the show’s expert writing this season—the extended story arc involving the kidnapping of Elam and Eva’s daughter Rose.

Just as audiences see quite a bit of development in Cullen in each episode this season, so does the story arc involving the kidnapping of Rose help to develop both Elam and Eva. Elam’s softer yet more protective side comes out as he searches for whomever kidnapped his daughter. The story arc does have a positive outcome in the short run. That ending won’t be revealed here for the sake of those that haven’t yet had the chance to see this season. But it’s not all happy for long as things take a painful emotional turn. The turn in question ironically serves to flesh out Elam’s character even more than ever. One can’t help but feel for him in the long-term outcome. That audiences will left feeling so strongly about Elam exhibits once more why the writing in this season is some of the series’ best yet. There is plenty more that could be discussed in terms of how the writing in Season Three makes it a success. But there is neither time nor space enough for that without one losing interest in this review. So on to the next topic.

The second aspect of Hell on Wheels’ third season box set that makes it a success is the acting on the part of the show’s cast. Having worked together on the series’ first two hugely successful seasons, it is obvious that a certain amount of chemistry has developed between the cast members. That chemistry has made the acting even more natural in this season. The end result is acting that allows audiences to completely suspend their disbelief and be pulled into the world crafted collectively by the writers and the actors. There’s even some light humor thrown in for good measure to lighten the tension that runs throughout the town and its people. And people won’t be able to help but laugh at those brief moments of humor. Audiences will agree that this helps to solidify the cast’s acting as an important part of the whole. And together with the solid writing, it puts this season’s set at the tipping point. There is one final part of the whole that puts this box set over that proverbial tipping point—the bonus material.

The bonus material included in Hell on Wheels: The Complete Third Season continues the tradition established by eOne in the box sets containing Seasons One and Two. Audiences are offered a recap of Season Two in order to help viewers catch back up before Season Four starts next month. And as with the previously released box sets, this set also includes companion “Inside the Episodes” featurettes with each episode. And of course, the standard “Behind-The-Scenes” featurettes are there, too. So not only can viewers catch up before Season Four starts next month, but they are given a thorough look behind the cameras once again. They are allowed to see the work that went into bringing Season Three to life. That combination of elements works with the writing and acting in Season Three to put it over the top. Collectively, it shows once and for all why this box set is one of the year’s top new box sets for adults.

Hell on Wheels: The Complete Third Season will be available next Tuesday, July 15th in stores and online. It will be available both on DVD and Blu-ray. More information on Hell on Wheels is available online now at http://www.facebook.com/HellonWheelsAMC, http://www.amc.com/shows/hell-on-wheels, and http://twitter.com/HellonWheelsAMC. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.