Scarecrow – Album Review

Scarecrow – Scarecrow II

Wise Blood Records

Release date: 22/10/2021

Running Time: 44 mins

Review by: Alun Jones

8.5/10

You could say I was a little confused when I first heard “The Endless Ocean Overture”, the opening track on this second album from Scarecrow.  I know the clue’s in the song title, but this really is a big, full on orchestral piece – complete with moody storm sounds and crashing waves.  I thought the Ever Metal Delivery Monkey had sent me one of those symphonic metal monstrosities by mistake – there are NO GUITARS here.  At least not on the first song.

Not that it’s a bad track – it’s actually very atmospheric and very bloody clever.  Just a bit of a surprise, that’s all.

Scarecrow are a Russian doom rock band, taking their inspirations from the classic seventies masters like Sabbath and Zeppelin.  When track 2 – “Blizzard” – kicked in, I realised my mistake.  Yes, here we have it: blues based heavy rock that could have easily been produced in 1973.  Groovy riffs, batteringly good drum breaks, high pitched wailing vocals – all the tropes are present and correct.  “Blizzard” has all these, plus relentless changes of pace which means the listener can bang their head or swing their bell bottom jeans all in one song.

“Magic Flower” has a slower, doom blues sound with some mouth organ for additional retro stylings.  There’s even a folky mid-section with some Plant-esque banshee screams.  Up next is “Spirit Seducer”, a rocker that’s more of the Iommi sound already hinted at, and some pounding rhythm. 

Scarecrow are nothing if not ambitious.  “The Moors” is a hell of an epic: warm acoustic guitar intro; doom laden heavy riff, ethereal keys: all the ingredients are here, and happily we reach another Sabbath like peak in the middle of the song.  Some of the orchestral feel of the opener makes a well-judged return here, adding to the bombast. 

When I heard the intro to “The Golden Times”, it was easy to make the comparison to Sabbath tracks like “Orchid” and “Fluff”.  This song flows along serenely, with the vocals making me think I’d started listening to a new Wolfmother recording.  Another multi part piece, best to just mellow out and enjoy the ride – till the increasing pace runs off with your ears.

The range and scope of this album really is very impressive.  “Scarecrow II” is an accurate love letter to the giants of yester year, whilst firmly placing the bands feet alongside contemporaries like Uncle Acid and Graveyard.  Scarecrow has delivered an album that features new spins on the old ideas co-existing with brave, surprising augmentations.     

Check out Scarecrow on Bandcamp and Facebook.

You can find Wise Blood Records on Bandcamp, Facebook and the interweb.

This review has been brought to you by Platinum Al in association with Ever Metal.

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2018 – Part 2

Avengers

NEC Birmingham

24/25 November 2018

And now we return to Birmingham NEC for Part 2 of my MCM Comic Con report…

Despite forgetting my camera, which is a new low even for me, my trusty phone was at hand to document everything.  So luckily, I managed to take plenty of photos during the day – and there are plenty of awesome cosplayers still to see.

Which is good, because I don’t have much else to write following the previous post.

But you’re not here for my ramblings, are you?  Enjoy the pics instead.

DC gang

I’ll leave you with one final image: the Stan Lee memorial.  This was a massive mural to commemorate the life of the recently departed genius – a nice touch.

Sci Fi Weekender 2018 – Part 1

Sci Fi Weekender 23th – 24th March 2018

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

2017 saw my intrepid crew and I sucked into a black hole, from which we were very lucky to escape.  Following numerous trials and tribulations within the void, we emerged eventually into a bizarre parallel dimension.  This strange new plane was warped beyond any fathomable reason; the UK was no longer in Europe and Donald Trump was President.

I know – unbelievable, right?  I was expecting apes to be in charge maybe, but not Trump.

Utilising all the skill and resource we could muster, we managed to reverse thrusters and reset our course for Pwllheli, North Wales, for Sci Fi Weekender.  The crew had missed one event, but in 2018 we would return.

The engines groaned and strained, but we were back on track.  We arrived at our destination and set up camp in our static exploration cabin.

Scouts across the galaxy had informed us that this was the ninth cycle of Sci Fi Weekender.  SFW9 would be full of the usual entertainments: VIP signings; Q&A panels; cosplay; films; games; live music and other acts.

Throw in a few decidedly lethal Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and there would, indeed, be exceptional joviality.

Alas, many VIP guests had apparently missed their trasport shuttles to reach us.  Caught in the same black hole as we had been, perhaps?  This was a bit of a blow, as I was particularly looking forward to hearing from Hugh Quarshie of Highlander (and others) fame.

Never mind, “There can be only one” – and that guest was the deviilishly delectable Emily Booth, actress and Horror Channel star.  Ms Booth’s Q&A was the first event I witnessed of the weekend and she was great.  Although the interview amounted to just a run through of her IMDB credits, Emily came across very well as both a cult star and confirmed fan.  I even asked a question myself, which is a SFW first for me!

The interview did get a bit saucy at times, but the audience was well warned in advance what to expect.  To be honest, I’d love to see much more of Emily Booth’s talents.  By which I mean, of course, more of the various movies she has starred in.  Of course.

It was then time to lurk about and peruse the merchandise stalls.  There were many more this year than I’ve seen previously.  Excellent news for me, bad news for my galactic credit balance.  I did get some rad stuff though.

This was also a great time to start taking some photos.  Armed with three cameras this year (!), I took quite a few pictures but as always missed so many great cosplayers.  There were dozens that I glimpsed briefly but lost in the crowd, never to be seen again.

It was like when I watched the Cantina scene in Star Wars when I was a kid, before we had a VHS player (yes, I’m THAT old).  An amazing creation was spotted only briefly, to be replaced by yet another, and I had no rewind function.

As you can probably imagine, Friday evening was somewhat of a blur.  I do remember a couple of things that must be mentioned though.

Professor Elemental was an absolute joy to behold, as always.  The Prof dropped tongue twisting chap-hop rhymes over DJ Nick Maxwell’s funky beats.  He expertly rallied the troops and took us on a tea stained tour of the British Empire.  It was brilliantly engaging stuff, with the Professor uniting all the tribes of geekdom in a pulsating party of steampunk excitement.

Darth Elvis & the Imperials performed what I consider the best set I’ve seen them deliver, despite it being cut short.  There were favourites old and new, including “Burning Sith” and a raging cover of the Beastie Boys classic, “Sabotage” – reworked in honour of Kylo Ren.  I was down the front for a fair part of the set and I loved every second.

This band never get old.  May they live as long as Master Yoda and forever be as musically talented at Max Rebo.  Sheer fun from beginning to end!

The evening ended with some spectacular Cosplay Karaoke, which I would’ve loved to have a go of!  No idea who the winner was, all the entrants were winners in my eyes!

Day one at SFW9 was truly stellar.  My only complaint was too much Welsh bashing from several presenters over the course of events.  In this day and age that’s a bit poor.

However Sci Fi Weekender is a success because of the people.  The camaraderie amongst attendees is the true strength, regardless of what VIP interview guests are there or not.  It’s a real pleasure to catch up with old faces – and meet some new ones – in a friendly, welcoming environment like this.

That’ll do for Part One.  Beam me up!

In Part 2: we lose a red shirt, and more pics.  Stay tuned!

Chester Comic Con

Chester Comic Con

Sunday 24th September 2017

My buddy Dan acquired some tickets and I was off to my first Chester Comic Con.  Amazingly, it was held at that den of drunken depravity, Chester Racecourse.  So for once, that almighty dignity vacuum would feature some actual culture.

To be fair, the racecourse was a pretty good venue.  There was plenty of space, with the indoor stalls surrounding a courtyard where numerous cosplayers, fans and geeks of all types could gather.  As it was decent weather, this outdoor section was a handy addition as it got fairly crowded indoors.

The stalls were many and varied; it was good to see a large number of merchandise stalls selling all manner of collectable paraphernalia.  There was plenty to drool over and spend hard earned cash on.

I picked up some comic books and Lego figures for presents, incredibly managing to resist adding more Funko Pops to my collection (there were lots).  As always with these events, however, there was tons I regretted not picking up later!

The cosplayers at the Con were superb.  There was all manner of fabulous creations on show, as seen here.  You’ve go to admire the dedication, hard work and creativity that goes into making these costumes.  I also think they’re also very brave, it takes some guts to proudly display your geek pride.

Well done to all the cosplayers – costumed heroes, every single one!  And thanks for letting me take your photo for this blog.

A highlight of the day were the Q&A sessions.  I caught a very interesting talk with Christopher Fairbank, who discussed his roles in film and TV from Auf Wiedersehen, Pet to Guardians of the Galaxy – and tons of other stuff.  His recollections provided loads of fascinating insights behind some of the many projects he’s been a part of.

Later on, there was another Q&A with Martine Beswick, Caroline Munro and Madeline Smith.  I’ve met these wonderful ladies before, but it was great to hear them talk about their experiences with Bond, Hammer and beyond.  The session was light hearted and lots of fun, with some genuinely interesting stories. All three came across very well; they were warm and friendly and really happy to be part of the event.  Superb, my favourite bit of the whole day.

All in all, Chester Comic Con was a total success.  It was a great day out and I’ll definitely be repeating the experience next year.  Let’s hope that 2018’s Con is expanded to two days!

The Chester Comic Con website is here.

Well folks, there you have it – for now.  I have a few more photos from the event to share, however I appear to have reached my limit for images with WordPress.  So for now, this is it.

In fact, this may be the end of Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub.

We shall see…

MCM Birmingham Comic Con – Part 1

NEC Birmingham

19/20 November 2016 

It’s been a couple of years since the gang made a trip to Birmingham NEC for Comic Con.  Not that we didn’t want to, other stuff just got in the way, sadly.  November 2016 however would see us return to Comic Con for all the usual fun and games.

Right from the off, the number of cosplayers seemed to be even higher than previous.  There were all kinds of characters on view, and plenty of them, from every franchgise you could think of.

The most popular costume this year was undoubtedly (and unsurprisingly) Harley Quinn.  Harley has always been a regular sight at conventions such as this whenever I’ve visited.  Following the success of the Suicide Squad movie, there were dozens of Harleys, of all types, everywhere.  Not to do any of the cosplayers a disservice – they all looked fantastic, whether they were original comic book or Margot Robbie inspired.

I tried to take as many photos as possible of the amazing costumes.  Everyone had obviously gone to great trouble to create outfits that were well made and accurate.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get photos of everyone, some people just slipped by and I missed them!

Plus, as always, I appear to have had a slight technical issue – resulting in several photos that would have been very cool not turning out at all.  My apologies to Storm and Walking Dead Daryl (amongst many others) – both of whom had awesome costumes, but my poor skills resulted in terrible pics!

The stalls were full of incredible paraphernalia as always.  So tempting, but regrettably I’m not made of money.  I saw dozens of very cool items, picked up a couple of things, left loads more.  I’m still missing not buying the Elvira Funko Pop…

My Star Wars collecting has retired these days.  I’m now only picking up (affordable) figures from the Original Trilogy; as I’m up to date with all that stuff there wasn’t anything to concern me.

Still, I had a good look around and thoroughly enjoyed scavenging for groovy collectables!

All in all it was another great day at the NEC.  Always spectacular, a great atmosphere and loads to see.  Looking forward to returning in March for more of the same!

Wales Comic Con 2015

Wales Comic Con – 26th April 2015

Glyndwr University, Wrexham

It was an amazing sunny day Wales Comic Con.  The sun was shining and the atmosphere was a winner.  I took my family along to Glyndwr University in Wrexham for an afternoon of Sci-Fi, fantasy and comic books and we had a fantastic time.

As per other conventions I’ve covered at the Virtual Hot Tub, the event was a mix of guests signing and doing Q&As, merchandise for sale, displays and gaming.  A varied menu of entertainments brought out fans galore, and the area was filled with enthusiasts from all over.

No doubt the great weather helped, but there was a tremendously friendly and enthusiastic atmosphere at this event.  My little girl, Eloise, dressed as Anna from Frozen and had a wonderful experience meeting lots of other Disney Princesses.  It was the first time she’s been to an event like this, and I think Eloise is a convert for life.

The Cosplayers were numerous, and their costuming skills very talented.  There were superheroes, Star Wars characters, time travelling doctors – everything you can think of.  I took plenty of photos, as you can see here.  All were happy to have their photographs taken, for which I am very grateful.  So many missed opportunities though!

A real highlight of the day, fo me, was meeting Dath Vader himself – Dave Prowse.  A very amiable chap, I’ve never met Mr Prowse before though I have met several of his Star Wars co-stars.  I got a signed photo  and shook the man’s hand.  A real gent.

My only criticism of the event was that there was little merchandise that appealed to me.  But that’s a very subjective viewpoint and wouldn’t put me off Wales Comic Con in future.

The event appeared to be run very well.  The last time I went, the queues were so long that my buddies and me gave up and went home without getting in.  No problems this year, the convention was busy but with no apparent issues.

Wales Comic Con was awesome fun.  We all had a great day out and will definitely go again.  It’s handy it’s so close to home.  The real success here was that the event kept all of us enthralled, whether it was a four year old Princess or an old Jedi like me.  Top marks.

Wales Comic Con website is here.

Meeting Dave Prowse

Meeting Dave Prowse