Posts Tagged USA

The First Stone

First Stone cover

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It doesn’t take too much of a stretch of the imagination to envisage the dystopian American society of Elliott Hunter’s debut novel. The First Stone. It’s all too plausible. Set in the not-too-distant future, (or perhaps an alternative present), this America has become an intolerant place dominated by The Council of Elders, a fundamentalist group that has become the real rulers of the new America in the years after Houston had been vaporised by a terrorist nuclear device.

America had lashed out in retaliation of course. Despite protestations of innocence the Iranians had been blamed and Tehran had been razed. Egged on by zealots from hundreds of fundamentalist preachers who provided the willing cannon fodder for a new Great Patriotic Crusade against terror, American soldiers occupied large parts of the Middle East. Thousands of soldiers had died there and many more had come home, seriously wounded, traumatised or damaged by chemicals and radiation. One such former soldier was Felix Strange, a private eye who suffers from a debilitating illness picked up in Iran that has neither a name nor a cure.

Strange doesn’t normally deal with homicide cases, but when the body of America’s most loved preacher, Brother Isaiah, is found strangled to death in his New York hotel room, he is called in to investigate. He’d rather not get involved in this case, but Ezekiel White who leads the morality police, the ‘Committee for Child Protection’ has ways and means of forcing him to comply.

White’s CCP goons, known as the Holy Rollers, are outflanked by Brother Isaiah’s Crusade of Love; an independent body of religious zealots who send their spies into different towns and cities in advance of a visit by the influential preacher. Pretty-boy ‘ex-gay’ activists entrap closet gays. Attractive young ladies do the same for amorous men in positions of authority. The unfortunate victims then find themselves denounced for their perversity by Brother Isaiah at one of his huge evangelistic rallies. Brother Isaiah may have had the US President and the Congress in his pocket, and Jesus on his side, but he had surely annoyed somebody enough to kill him. Strange has a week to find out who killed Brother Isaiah and why, if he lives that long…

This modern noir reflects the grim humour and terse prose of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler for the twenty-first century. All the ingredients are there; a mystery death, a race against time to meet a deadline, people out to stop our protagonist and one of the finest examples of a femme fatale to appear in crime fiction for decades. This is an outstanding book, both in terms of characterisation and sharp dialogue and most notably in its author’s scarily plausible portrayal of a society dominated by an intolerant fundamentalist version of Christianity.

Reviewed by David Kerr

The First Stone (the first in the Strange Trilogy). Elliott Hall

 

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Mark Elvis Nixon

Mark Elvis Nixon

markelvis

MILLIONS of people around the globe would say that Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the greatest singers and entertainers the world has ever seen. Some would go further and say that he was the greatest singer and entertainer ever. And they would agree 100% with this description from the official Elvis Presley website:
“Known the world over by his first name, he is regarded as one of the most important figures of twentieth century popular culture.” (Check out www.elvis.com for much more information about Elvis.)

I feel that one of these people would be Mark Elvis Nixon. But who is he, why is he named after The King and what’s he doing in Counter Culture?

Well, first things first. Mark is a 23 year old native of Durham in the North East of England. His parents are massive fans of Elvis and his music had a real effect on Mark. Indeed, he changed his middle name to ‘Elvis’ by deed poll wheb he was just 17.

Not content with calling himself Elvis, Mark now earns a very honest crust via his way above average – and highly energetic – Elvis Tribute act. I was lucky enough to catch him towards the end of September whilst on a brief family holiday in Majorca. Mark had been performing here seven days a week for the whole season.

At first I was a little taken aback – it’s not often that you see a youngster in one of The King’s trademark white catsuits, normally associated with the latter part of his career! Despite Mark’s young age, there’s no mistaking his love and passion for Elvis. He puts his heart and soul into his performance. This really comes over in his hour long show, which was very energetic to say the least. The sweat was bouncing out of him in no time!

Mark had the crowd singing, clapping and dancing in no time at all. Really noticeable were the dozens of people taking photographs and filming him as he got into his set.

Along with virtually all Elvis tribute acts and impersonators, he’s got every mannerism – from swiveling hips to the famous curled lip – off to a tee. His singing voice is also spot on. However, what makes Mark stand out from the crowd is his self-depreciating sense of humour. He’s not afraid to send himself up. When he’s introducing songs and talking about himself he does it on his normal voice – as he noted a couple of times, his is the worst American accent you’ll ever hear!! However, there’s also a serious point to this. Mark doesn’t regard himself as an Elvis impersonator (he’ spaying tribute to The King), so there’s no need to put on that famous Southern drawl.

Another thing that sets Mark apart from the rest is that his set list is really different. I’ve seen a few Elvis acts and it’s reasonably easy to predict what songs will feature. Whilst Mark sings many favourites – Hound Dog, You Were Always On My Mind, Blue Suede Shoes and so on – he featured several songs I hadn’t heard before. One was the fantastic Steamroller Blues, which had a great Rockabilly feel to it. Also included were Elvis’ interpretations of the Beatles classics Something (in the Way She Moves) and Hey Jude.

As I mentioned earlier, Mark Elvis Nixon really puts his heart and soul into his performance. If he keeps at it he’ll be doing what he loves for a living for a long time to come. If you see him advertised go alongand see him – you’ll be in for a great show!

Check out his web-site here: www.markelvisnixon.co.uk/index.htm
Check out his Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/markelvisnixonuk

Reviewed by John Field

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Diamond Eyes by Deftones

Diamond Eyes

by Deftones

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Released: May 4th 2010
Genre: Alternative Metal/Experimental Rock
Label: Reprise/Warner Bros.
Number of Tracks: 11

DEFTONES are an alternative metal band from Sacramento, California, consisting of Chino Moreno (Vocals/Guitar), Stephen Carpenter (Guitar), Chi Cheng (bass), Frank Delago (keyboards and turntables) and Abe Cunningham (drums). After the release and subsequent tour for Saturday Night Wrist (2006) the band began working on their next album titled Eros. Following the recording of the album bassist Chi Cheng was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident and fell into a coma, delaying the albums release. The band was unsure whether they would continue to play together. In 2009 they began to play a number of shows and festivals around the world with bassist Sergio Vega (of Quicksand) filling in for Cheng on bass and instead of releasing Eros the band decided to record a new album that year with Vega. Diamond Eyes was released earlier this year, four years after their previous album. For the short time span in which this record was written, recorded and released it is an incredible record.

SOUND: To me Deftones are one of those bands that have a different sound and feel to each album they release. This is true with Diamond Eyes and previous releases. The interesting thing about all of Deftones albums is the increase in “heaviness” throughout their career. The guitars they used on their first record were in the standard tuning and as they released more albums the guitars started to become tuned lower and even lead to the usage of seven string guitars and on Diamond Eyes the introduction of the eight string guitar. Although this is a “heavy” record I wouldn’t let this put off non-metal listeners. Although the sound is loud and at times abrasive it’s also clean and well polished meaning it isn’t a difficult listen. The music they create is also quite intricate. It’s already been mentioned that the band utilises keyboard and turntables. When you give the album a first listen it seems that these parts are non-existent, when in fact they are quite subtle within the music. In terms of the tracks themselves they vary in style quite a lot. Most of the tracks use a light distortion (at least it sounds light to me anyway!) while other tracks like Sextape stand out using clean guitar and delay effects. Some of the songs give off a feeling of sort of staggered feel such as Rocket Skates, Cmnd/Ctrl and Royal but generally the songs are quite upbeat and mid tempo. Overall I would give the sound a solid 9 out of 10.

LYRICS: For an album that was created based around a tragic event, the easiest thing that they could of done would have been to write a angst-ridden and bleak album. The lyrics however aren’t like that at all. It could even be argued that like the music they are quite upbeat. The lyrics like most of Deftones lyrics are still quite cryptic and often aim at providing messages or telling stories about something. For that reason it’s difficult to look at lyrics out of the context of the song. They do however explore a range of emotions. “Time will see us realign, Diamonds reign across the sky” from Diamond Eyes (song) and “Let’s drown beneath the stars” from Rocket Skates seem to symbolise the longing to be together with someone again. The themes that run through the lyrics all seem to be like that. To talk about Chinos voice I would describe it as having Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) and Morrissey (The Smiths) influences which can be heard at times. He has an interesting voice, it can be quiet and soothing at times but it can also be loud and intense. There is screaming in this record but there is not a huge amount of it (I can only think of it really being in one song and in that song it was quite sparse) so if you are not a fan of it I wouldn’t let it put you off. The song Cmnd/Ctrl almost sounds like it is rapped with the rapid delivery of vocals provided. Overall the lyrics are varied enough to make it interesting and the vocal delivery is excellent. I would easily give it a 9 out of 10 for vocals.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: I waited a long time for this album to be released and I was certainly not disappointed with what I heard. The production is great and the songs in general are of very high quality. It’s one of the best metal albums I have heard that has came out in recent years and I would certainly encourage everyone to give it a listen!  9/10.

Reviewed by Joshua Chism.

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