Monday, May 6, 2019

Devin Townsend: Empath Review, Movie Reviews, IWSG News, and Ninja News

Devin Townsend: Empath Review

Where to begin when reviewing a new album by the mad genius Devin Townsend?

My initial reaction to the album upon first listen was mixed to say the least. All I could think was that this is the soundtrack to schizophrenia. But there was something there that made me give it another listen. And I’m so glad I did.

This is progressive music at its most challenging. It’s simply impossible to digest the scope and breadth of what Devin is trying to accomplish in a few casual listens. This album rewards the patient listener with an album that gets better and better with each listen. I’ve had it on permanent play for about a month and it still amazes me.

First off, the music is mixed to perfection. Every instrument is clearly distinguished, which is a feat considering that Devin has included every sound on the planet including the kitchen sink. (Seriously, I would not be surprised if someone was playing the kitchen sink in the background.) You get gigantic, intricate choruses that are blended perfectly with screaming and growling metal to create a wall of sound and what seems like (at times) a thousand instruments all meshed into one strange but compelling and beautiful mix. The album is pop, rock, metal, soundtrack, show tune, children’s story, and so much more.

All the musicians are top notch (Steve Vai plays guitar), but I have to give huge props to the three drummers. Each one brings his own unique flair and style to the music.

Bottom line, this is not an easy album to dive into, but if you are patient you will be rewarded with one of the most unique musical experiences ever. This is a ten out of ten. Perfection!

Below are three videos from the album of some of the more accessible songs. The middle one, Genesis, displays some of that schizophrenia.



Spirits Will Collide

Movie Reviews

Released last year, this thriller has Dwayne Johnson as a security expert trying to get into the top of a burning skyscraper in China to save his family from criminals. Also starring Neve Campbell and Chin Han.
This movie breaks no new ground and will remind you of the first Die Hard. (And sadly, it will remind you of the Twin Towers on 9/11.) And as you watch the flames crawl up the floors, you’ll have to completely suspend disbelief.
What saves it is Johnson. He’s charismatic enough to carry just about any movie, generic or not. Plus the cast does a good job and the effects and action are good.
Worth a watch on NetFlix

Tomb Raider
Also released last year, this reboot sees Lara Croft venturing to an island off Japan in search of her missing father.
The action and acting were fine, but there was just something off about this film. I never could quite nail what though. Maybe it’s because this Lara didn’t come off as tough and a tomb-adventuring kind. Maybe it was because I never felt invested in the plot or the characters. Maybe it was the constant girlish screams and squeaks from Lara. Maybe because it was boring.
Whatever the reason, this one was just so vanilla. Not that the first one was really epic or that only Angelia Jolie can be Lara Croft. It was just easily forgettable and probably won’t even be a fun cheesy watch in ten years.
Watch only if drying paint excites you.

The Predator
Yet another film from 2018! A boy triggers the Predator’s return to earth and a group of ex-soldiers and a scientist must stop it.
The director is Shane Black, who directed Iron Man III and scripted Lethal Weapon.
It’s an odd film. I can understand why it didn’t do well since the tone is all over the place. (But far more interesting than the boring Tomb Raider.)
Despite its many flaws, I was entertained, mostly due to the comedy in the film. Even the Predator gets in on the joke now and then.
The effects were good and there was lots of action.
And wild to think the first Predator movie was thirty-two years ago.
Worth a watch on NetFlix if you’re into this kind of film.


Thanks to all who volunteered to co-host – we are booked all summer long!

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Annual Anthology Contest is now open!
Genre is middle grade historical – adventure/ fantasy and the theme is voyagers.
See the site for full details.
And start writing now!

Masquerade: Oddly Suited – an IWSG Anthology is available now!
Find it here - Barnes and Noble, Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and Goodreads

And the authors of Masquerade: Oddly Suited are hosting a live Q & A session on Discord! Join them on Sat 11th May from 1:00 pm EST / 6:00 pm GMT to find out more about the anthology and the contributing authors and ask any burning questions you may have.
The Q & A will be held on Discord. Please follow the invite link: HERE

Ninja News

Juneta Key hosts the quarterly Story Time Blog Hop.
July the genre is speculative fiction.
Visit her site for details.

Grumpy Old Gods Vol. 1 from Storm Dance Publications now available.
What happens when gods wane, retire, or just decide they need a change of employment?
13 writers took up the challenge and let their imaginations run wild in this anthology that is nearly-always amusing, somewhat insightful, and completely irreverent as we imagine the gods of yore in retirement.
Find it on Amazon
Volume 2 is in production and they are looking for submissions for volume 3. Details HERE.

Available now-
War Maiden by Juliana Haygert
The Fire Heart Chronicles Book 6
“I never imagined the choices I made would lead to this— to the very end of all things.” 

Into prog rock like Devin Townsend? Have you seen Skyscraper, Tomb Raider, or The Predator? Pick up Masquerade? Entering the IWSG contest?
And have you seen Avengers: Endgame yet?


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

That album cover is cool! I listened to some of different. I'd have to get used to the style, but I can see what you mean about the talent.

No, I can't believe that Predator was 32 years ago!

nashvillecats2 said...

A wonderful musical review Alex, infact an awesome post altogether.
Have a good week.


Shady Del Knight said...

Hi, Alex!

I enjoyed the cuts from Devin Townsend's Empath album. If these three are the more accessible tracks, then surely the rest of the album would be right up my alley. I first came to appreciate The Rock in Pain & Gain. He was hilarious. I agree that Dwayne has the charisma to carry just about any film. I enjoy disaster thrillers and I am eager to check out Skyscraper on Netflix along with The Predator.

Have a great week, good buddy Alex!

Mason Canyon said...

I like that you gave the music a second try. Sometimes we miss something really good by not giving it a second chance. Congrats to those with new releases. Grumpy Old Gods sounds intriguing.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Congrats to those with new releases!

We saw Endgame last week and saw Captain Marvel (for the third time) this weekend. We plan to see Endgame again this weekend.

The Cynical Sailor said...

Grumpy Old Gods sounds fun. I like the premise of the gods in retirement. I've read Masquerade - great stories by some very talented people :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

We watched the new movie Body at Brighton Rock - started out really good then just took odd turns, and the music was hokey which did not help anything.

Looking forward to co-hosting next month!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Elizabeth, there is so much talent there!

Shady, listen to Why? It's like a Disney musical showtune but there is so much musical brilliance there, it will stun you.

Sandra, we're going again this Friday.

Ellen, glad you enjoyed it.

Madeline, appreciate your help.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I love the video with the cat.

Lynda Dietz said...

Soundtrack to schizophrenia, eh? I'll have to give those videos a listen when I have earbuds handy.

Sounds like the movie pickings were slim this time around. Thank goodness for Netflix!

Arlee Bird said...

My wife and I watched Skyscraper a couple weeks ago--not bad for what it is--kind of mindless fun that provides a good escape for a couple hours.

Your album description of Devin Townsend sounds like something with appeal for me. Listening to the cuts you provided I like what I hear.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Roland D. Yeomans said...

My most progressive music picks are Within Temptation and Nightwish! I enjoyed Predators -- maybe my tastes are off-kilter! :-) I will try my hand at this year's IWSG Anthology yet one more time. Persistence sometimes pays off!

Murees Dupè said...

Hi, Alex. I will give the three videos a try. Thanks. I didn't enjoy either of those movies very much, but I feel Predator was the best out of the 3? Have a good week.

Nilanjana Bose said...

I liked all the three tracks, liked Spirits will collide the best. Soaring is the word that came to my mind. Thank you for the reco, off to find out how I can get Empath directly. And hope to get the antho in from UK to read over the summer :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Lynda, thank goodness I didn't go to the theater to see any of them!

Lee, you liked it? Awesome!

Roland, both excellent bands.

Murees, it was mindless fun.

Nila, awesome!

Fundy Blue said...

No, I haven't seen Endgame yet. I have to watch 21 other movies first ~ LOL! But I will eventually. I really liked the first Tomb Raider because part of it was filmed in Ta Prohm temple in Cambodia, a place I LOVED! I started working on a story for the 2019 anthology competition last night. I really like albums that get better and better the more you list them. I play records over and over again too! Have a great week!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Skyscraper looks like a movie I'd enjoy for sure!

Juneta key said...

I have not seen Endgame and probably won't until it is in digital, bummer, but looking forward to it.

I like almost anything The Rock is in. I was not sure if I would like the new Tomb Raider but love it. Have not seen Predator was not much into those although I did see the first two.

Thank you so much, Alex, for including Storytime and Grumpy Old Gods 1, 2 and 3. Thank you, thank you. It is so appreciated.

I'm enjoying the stories in Masquerade a lot. Congrats on that release!

diedre Knight said...

Howdy Captain!

Prog rock isn't usually my choice, but I did like Spirits Will Collide. It would be interesting background music for fantasy writing.

I love the premise of Grumpy Old Gods, and the Story Time Blog Hop sounds like fun!

Now that you mention it, I might see Skyscraper after all ;-)

It's always a pleasure to read your posts - thanks!

Liz A. said...

Sounds like the album is way too much work for me. I barely listen to music at all as it is. (This is rather funny as I was one class away from a music minor in college. I understand music. I just don't spend a lot of time listening anymore.) And the movies... They just don't sound interesting. And no, I haven't seen Endgame. Sad, I know. I still haven't seen Infinity War...

Tonja Drecker said...

Great review of Empath. As to movies, we 'accidentally' saw Skyscraper. The kids liked it since they'd never seen Die Hard. I found it entertaining-ish.

J E Oneil said...

Dwayne Johnson tends to be the thing that saves most of the movies he's in. Although I went and saw that earthquake one he was in and not even he could make it watchable.

J E Oneil said...

Dwayne Johnson tends to be the thing that saves most of the movies he's in. Although I went and saw that earthquake one he was in and not even he could make it watchable. said...

The cover art for Empath is gorgeous.
Have a great week, Alex.

Carol Kilgore said...

My year has been hectic and I haven't seen any new movies or heard any new music (unless by accident). I'm hopefully going to be back to a more normal pace before too much longer. Then I can catch up. Thanks for keeping me up to date.

Mary Kirkland said...

Spirits Will Collide is my favorite of the three there. It's not really my kind of music but it's not bad.

Elephant's Child said...

Grumpy Old Gods has tempted me. Big time.

Patsy said...

I don't have time to watch anything! I expect I'm missing some good stuff, but as I'm busy doing interesting things I don't mind. Can't do it all, can we?

Pat Hatt said...

I skipped all three of those as they just seemed meh, sounds like I was pretty right.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Louise, glad you're working on a story for the anthology.

Juneta, you're welcome!

Diedre, glad you gave it a chance.

Liz, you probably need to see Infinity War first...

Mary, that is the most accessible of the three.

Pat, you were right!

Cherie Reich said...

I chuckled to hear that Predator gets in on the joke every so often. :)

Roland Clarke said...

Listening to Devin Townsend and grateful for you recommending him to this old prog-rocker.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'll keep my eyes out for Skyscraper. I've been to China and like movies set there.

Botanist said...

Skyscraper sounds a lot like Towering Inferno. I do like the sound of Grumpy Old Gods. It has the sound of Terry Pratchett when he was still at his best.

Birgit said...

Not too much into prog rock but you gave a great review. The only one I might see is the Towering Inferno..sorry, Skyscraper since Alicia does not look tough enough and I am not into Predator at all.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm not into progressive rock but I like the album cover. I might watch The Predator but likely none of the other. Did see End Game. Really great and certainly better than the last season of GoT is so far.

John Wiswell said...

No way, there's a new Townsend album! He was basically my favorite musician in the world in college! I have to hear this.

Rhonda Albom said...

I haven't found time to go to the movies in ages, but I did watch your video clips. Interesting music. I like the second one the best, and videos were quite captivating. It's not my style of music, but I am sure the artist is thrilled with your review.

The Angry Lurker said...

Totally agree about Tomb Raider and The Predator, yet to see Skyscraper but I do like most of Dwaynes work!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Roland, awesome!

Ian, that movie crossed my mind as well.

Susan, agree with you there!

John, you rock! Pick it up at once.

Rhonda, thanks for giving it a try.

Anonymous said...

Hubby and I watched the Tombraider movie recently, too, and I have to agree with you. It was a fun adventure, but it just didn't feel like Tombraider.

Sandra said...

Heading out to see Avengers....

Lisa said...

Liked the first Tomb Raiders, but not enough to watch a remake. I'm reading the anthology right now, well, not while I'm posting, but it's what I'm reading! Glad IWSG is covered for the summer!

Lisa said...

I did "enjoy" the first Predator. Haven't seen any of the others... And I'll see almost anything with Johnson in it!

Blue Grumpster said...

"there was just something off about this film... You can say that again.
1. She wasn't touch.
2. She didn't look the part. She'd do great in a cover bnd.
3. Daddy issues.... Not again!
4. There's no way she is strong.
5. That plot was so meh. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz
6. Oh no.... not another mountain caving in.
7. This movie is as boring as THIS book. It could have been as exciting as THIS book.

Just so you know at the Ninja Show.

J.H. Moncrieff said...

I don't know that I've ever listened to progressive rock. I'll have to give it a try.

I'm glad you found your co-hosts.

LD Masterson said...

I'm so far behind, I haven't seen any of those movies. But Endgame will definitely be first.

SpacerGuy said...

Dwayne Johnson toted as a ladies man has capabilities which shine through any movie he stars in with that voice, body and looks (I guess) not that I'm jealous but it just goes to show what luck and application produces = success. Okay so maybe a titchy bit.

Sandra said...

Went to see A. They killed off my favorite character and put a beer belly on the other. Wringing my hands.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sandra, enjoy!

Lisa, awesome!

Blue, agreed!

Sandra said...

PS. I was stunned by the star power. I didn't recognize Pfeiffer or Hurt. Michael Douglas looked young:)

Heather Erickson said...

I don't know why, but Genesis reminded me of Queen, in a way,

Joanne said...

Howdy, I'm back from PA. Just wanted to say hey!

Sandra said...

Skyscraper: I thought it was an interesting twist, giving The Rock a disability.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sandra - special effects and makeup combined!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I never dreamed Skyscraper was worth watching. I've been avoiding it, but your recommendation, I'll give it a watch.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I'll have to listen to the music when I'm on my other computer, because the sound card in this one went belly up. Not sure if I'll like it or not, but I'm willing to give it a go. Our kids have turned me on to a lot of music I wouldn't have sampled on my own.

My hubby and I saw "Endgame" this week. We really enjoyed it, even though it kinda dragged at times. There was more than enough action and humor in it to keep our attention overall.

mail4rosey said...

We like drums over here. We don't like to watch drying paint, so we'll skip Lara. ;)

Mark Koopmans said...

As a simple guy with relaxing Trance/80's musical needs, I'd be too scared to listen to Devin's music!!

Magic Love Crow said...

Thanks for all the reviews Alex! Predator was 32 years ago? Wow! I feel old! LOL! Grumpy Old gods looks so cute! I have to apologize! I am so behind in blogging! Going to try to catch up! Just to let you know, I might not be able to comment on all your posts, but know I have been there to read them! Take Care!

DMS said...

Empath sounds interesting and I am definitely curious. It makes me think that the mixed feelings of being an empath really come through in the songs. Thanks for sharing. :)

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi Alex!

Saw the AVENGERS last week and REALLY enjoyed it!

Thanks for sharing the news of new releases, GRUMP OLD GODS looks hysterical! Glad they're continuing with the series... already two books full and now looking for more submissions. Maybe I can squeeze in a bit of time for that one, I love mythology...

I hope to be finished with my memoir by the end of July which will definitely give me time to enter the next IWSG anthology. I really want to submit something. It's time to focus on my writing even more now.

Hope all is well...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Elizabeth, keep expectations low and you will enjoy it.

Susan, you never know - you might like it!

Rosey - funny!

Mark, we might have to peel you from the ceiling.

Crow, no worries!

Doreen McGettigan said...

Thank you for sharing the music of Devin Townsend. I've never heard of him, good stuff!
I'm looking forward to hosting and am going to attempt writing something out of my comfort zone for the anthology, wish me luck!

Susan Kane said...

Basically, any movie with Dwayne Johnson is fun to watch. His duct tape comments are in my blog post "Ode to Duct Tape". I tell my gr-daughters "He's so hot.." just to mess with them.

Tomb Raider is weak, lame even.