Monday, January 10, 2011

Dargaard: The Dissolution of Eternity

Snow days are a wonderful thing; they mean you can stay home and find the time to write. And so, I will do another music review for another album that I discovered via pandora a few months ago and have been hooked on ever since.

The band is called Dargaard, and it hails from Austria. It is made up of only two members, Tharen and Elisabeth Toriser, who use a synthesizer for all the instruments. I have largely only heard this album "Dissolution of Eternity", and it has a very gothic, haunting sound, almost like something you would play on Halloween night or inside a large cathedral.

"As Old as the Bones of the Earth"

The song starts off dark and threatening with what almost sounds like the screech of a bird, and then the vocals and bells begin. It is a very haunting piece. It is a long song (about seven minutes), but it is good nonetheless, making me think of some deep, hidden underground cavern. It ends with the sound of the wind blowing.

"Thy Fleeing Time"

This song is faster than the first one, and it is sung by Elisabeth. It is very haunting, and this is one of the songs that first got me interested in Dargaard.

"A Path in the Dust"

This one has a more threatening, ominous tone though is not as memorable as the first two pieces.

"In the Omnipresence of Death"

This is another seven-minute long song. It has the feel of a requiem and is sung in Latin, and the bells add a nice touch. This is one of the more memorable pieces on the album.

"My Phantasm Supreme"

This song is louder than the other two, and Elisabeth's vocals are almost drowned out by the music. There is the sound effect of wind at times during the piece.

"Night before the Vastland Storms"

The harp plays a big part of this song. While it is less dark than some of the other songs, the bells and drums do give the impression of lightning and thunder being seen and heard from afar.

"Fire's Dominion"

The synthesizer gets a little high-pitched here, but it doesn't last two long. The sound effects of fire can be heard around the middle of the song.

"The Isolated Vale"

This is a gentle, quieter song sung by Elisabeth with a harp strumming in the background. It is a pretty piece.

"A Prophecy of Immortality"

This is a mournful piece with various sound effects like horses and shouting in it. When I hear it, I think of someone not looking forward to living forever on the earth.

"Wanderer at the End of Time"

This song starts off very high-pitched, which I'm not fond of, and I've yet to hear the entire piece because of it.

This album is a very haunting, dark piece. All the songs fit together perfectly, and the synthesizer does an excellent job of sounding like a full orchestra at times. The songs are arranged very well, and a good portion of them are memorable. I'm not much into darkwave or Gothic-sounding music, but I've made an exception for this album.

I give it four and a half out of five stars.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Movie Review: Tron Legacy

My break has been busier than expected, hence the lack of music reviews. I will instead give a review of "Tron: Legacy", which I saw in theaters yesterday.


"Tron: Legacy" begins in 1989, a few years after the events of the original "Tron". Kevin Flynn has become CEO of ENCOM and has a young son named Sam, whom he tells tales about his experiences on the grid. Suddenly, Flynn vanishes one day, leaving Sam alone. Fast-forward about twenty years to Sam (played by Garret Hedlund) who is the typical rebellious, slightly embittered son who is not willing to take over his father's empire and only plays pranks on ENCOM and tries to avoid the law. One night, Sam is told that a message was sent from Flynn's abandoned office, so he goes to the old arcade to investigate. While there, Sam is digitized like Flynn was years ago and ends up in pretty much the same situation: a program has gone rogue and is controlling the system strictly, and Sam can only stop it if he can get home through the portal before it closes. He meets up with his father, who has been sought after by the villain C.L.U., and Quorra (played by Olivia Wilde), a unique program who dreams of being human, and together the three make a hazardous journey to the portal.

I do not remember much of the original "Tron" except that the graphics were cool, despite being done in the early 80's. However, from what I do remember of it, it was completely different from this new version. While the special effects are cool, they look a little too realistic, not like the old graphics which reminded the audience that Flynn was in a different world. An entire city has been built to house the programs, most of which are idle and do not do anything beyond being entertained in some fashion or other; this makes for a completely different setup from the original, but it also means that there is great inconsistency between the two in terms of world-building.

The plot itself is rather skewed and full of holes. Sam arrives in the grid but ends up in a digitized version of his dad's arcade, so why does he have to travel all the way beyond the grid to get to the portal if that is his only way home? Flynn has been in the computer world for years (he states elsewhere in the film that minutes in our world mean hours in the digital world), so why did he age like a normal human being if the time is messed up? C.L.U is trying to dominate the world, but how does he have the inside influence to be able to get word to Sam? The plot itself is rather strange with a large rabbit trail of Sam trying to get help from Zuse (played by Michael Sheen), which ends in disaster when the program betrays him and results in a large club fight and then Sam, a wounded Quorra, and Flynn barely escaping to make their way towards the portal; it seemed like a rather useless situation, only put in there for the sake of being a cool fight scene. The side plot of Quorra's true identity was also weird, as was her desire to be human and experience things like sunrises. There was also a great amount of predictability to the plot, such as Tron's fate (he was supposedly killed by C.L.U years ago though Flynn never saw it happen), Flynn's death, and Sam deciding to become the CEO of ENCOM at last.

The characters were nothing special. Sam was the typical stereotyped son who got jilted by his father and so doesn't want to do his job but later changes his mind; he had a smart-alack personality, but it was nothing memorable. Flynn was odd in that he suddenly became Buddhist or Zen while inside the grid, and so now he sits around in silence "listening to sound". Quorra was not special either, and it was predictable that she and Sam would get together more or less at the end. C.L.U. was not a memorable villain, and his goal of taking over the human world was rather weird and did not make much sense.

The special effects were cool, but to me they were a little too modern and too realistic-looking. When I remember the original "Tron", I recall the graphics being pretty cool despite being done in the early 80's, but they helped to establish the strangeness of the world and reminded the audience it was different. Here, the special effects are a little too real and a little too sleek-looking; after all, Flynn was trapped in 1989, so why did the rest of the world look like the digital world would? Still, the graphics were neat.

A redeeming point in the movie is the soundtrack, done by French electronic band Daft Punk. The soundtrack is excellent, at times sounding like Vangelis, Hans Zimmer, or John Powell and then at other times turning into catchy techno music. It was truly well-done, and I have been enjoying listening to it on rhapsody.

In conclusion, "Tron Legacy" was only an ok movie. The plot was filled with holes and did not make much sense, though the effects were cool and the soundtrack amazing.

I give it 2 and 1/2 stars out of five.