CD Review: Crystal Lake “True North”

“True North”
Crystal Lake
Artery/Cube Records
Tracks: 10

Our score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Japanese hardcore/metal band Crystal Lake has just released a brand new full length album titled “True North”. The album (the bands 6th full-length) is being released via Artery Record in the United States features 10 tracks which blend and blur a mixture of unique styles and sounds which instantly sets them apart from other bands in the genre.

Being somewhat unfamiliar with Crystal Lake I jumped in blindly as I hit the play button. Right away the band had my intention as the albums opening track “Alpha” teases your senses with underlying synth rhythms before hitting you like a ton of bricks. Vocalist Ryo Kinoshita pushes his voice to the near edge on tracks like “Omega” and “True North” while tracks like “Breathe Deep” and “Metro” showcase the bands diversity and musicianship as they bounce between light melodic verses, aggression fueled choruses and fist pumping breakdowns providing a unique rollercoaster like listening experience. Even if you are not a fan of heavy music there is enough substance in “True North” to make this a worth-while listen.

Despite finding some of the sound structures a little redundant mainly in the way of the albums electronic elements it wasn’t enough to pull my attention away from the core elements of each song. For fans of heavy music looking for something a little different give the latest offering from Crystal Lake a try as you won’t be disappointed.

Track Listing:
1.) Alpha
2.) Omega
3.) Hatred
4.) Metro
5.) True North
6.) Breathe Deep
7.) Black and Blue
8.) Six Feet Under
9.) Walk on Water
10.) Waves

Bella D. talks about her new album titled “The Crystal Ceiling”

Bella D. pushes the boundaries of artistic hard rock with a unique signature blend of operatic vocals and intricate steampunk themed storytelling. This blend of interesting styles can be heard on Bella D’s new album titled “The Crystal Ceiling” which will be released on May 13th. Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Bella D. recently about the albums creation, her partnership with drummer Charlie Zeleny and her plans for upcoming live performances.

Ryan Albro: How did you and Charlie Zeleny come together to work on this project?

Bella D.: Charlie went to high School together but we didn’t really know each other. We just saw each other in the hallway kind of thing. We actually met in college as we had a class together and that’s where our friendship started. I did a lot of theater at the time and I got him a lot of jobs as a theater music and stuff. He and I worked in together a lot and then we parted ways for a little while his career went 1 way and my career went another way. When I got the wild hair to finally do this album I knew I really needed a partner to help me with it. It was one of these things where the album became so big that there was no way I was going to be able to do this by myself. After talking with Charlie he asked me to do a video with him which got us back in touch with each other. I told him the idea about the album and he said he might be interested, Charlie wanted to see if we could write a song together before we invested a lot of time in the project so that’s what we did first. We sat down and wrote one song which went very quickly. From there we tried another and so on. All of a sudden things just exploded and the album literally started to take on a life of its own.

RA: Where did the idea for the dystopian, steampunk theme come from?

BD: It came from me. Charlie’s alter ego is very cyberpunk but I have always been very theatrical and I have always been in love with the Victorian age. I wound up discovering steampunk and fell in love with the idea of a very modern world, with modern objects that are all run by clockwork, steam power. There is something very romantic and badass about it at the same time. Steampunk started off as kind of very small niche and now you are starting to see it a lot more.

RA: The majority of great song lyrics generally can be traced back to writers telling very personal stories in the form of song. What was it like for you to tell not only your own incredible story, but to shape it into a hard rock, steampunk fueled album?

BD: Charlie and I worked very closely together on this album. The album is made up of a lot of my experiences which at times was very emotional for me. We all go through these moments where we feel like we’re beaten up, either by life or just by every day conflict. We are all beaten up and we are all fighting against something and the album sort of reflects that battle. It is one of these things that you have to go into full force and swing that sword, shoot the gun, whatever genre you’re fighting whether its fantasy or steampunk or modern cyberpunk. That is the general feel of it. I have gone through a couple really rough patches in life and I really drew from that. That’s where the story came from.

RA: How did you going about selecting the musicians who appeared on the album?

BD: That all comes down to Charlie. I always joke that he has got this little black book, not of women, but of every musician he has ever worked with. I think it rivals the New York City phonebook. He has had a fantastic career and is really amazing at what he does so because of that he has been able to build up some great connections with all of these artists. Charlie reached out to everyone with the idea of what we were doing and they were like that’s insane, I want in. That’s basically all that happened and the even crazier thing is that none of these artists were in the same room with each other at any time. This was all done digitally. Charlie would plug the performances into pro-tools and tweak little things here and there to make everything sound fantastic.

RA: What can you share about the comic book series that’s coming out with the album?

BD: Basically the music and the story coincide with one other. When we wrote the concept album I wrote the lyrics with a story in mind but not in such a way that you’re going to sit down a listen to a recording of a musical. This is a concept album and each song stands on its own 100% but, if somebody really wanted to sit down and listen and actually enjoy the whole concept of it they could. I really wanted to be able to tell my vision with this album. Being a huge comic book fan and knowing how popular comics are right now it made perfect sense to make this something that if people want to know what was going on story wise in the music they could follow along in the book. I worked with a really great artist who I think captured the first portion of the story quite well.

RA: What do you want listeners to take away from the album and your story?

BD: I think the biggest lesson I’d love people to take away from this is an understanding that we all have been there, we all have been that person who’s been struggling and feeling like the world is literally falling apart around them. The biggest message is that you can make it through, but you have to work at it, you have to pick yourself up, you have to have those moments of “yeah this stuff is horrible” but I’m still going, I’m still alive, I’m still breathing and today I’m going to kick its ass.

RA: What are some of the plans you have for live performances of the material?

BD: We are doing a release party at Carroll Place in New York City on May 19th. As far as live performances past that we don’t have anything locked in yet. I am working on getting into Comic Con as I would love to perform there, especially since I am releasing a comic along with the album. We also have two lyrics videos being released online soon and also a full production video of another song. That’s all in the can ready to go, it looks fantastic, we’re just waiting for the release date.

Brian Henson talks about Syfy’s “Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge” and the Sequel to “Dark Crystal”

Brian Henson is the son of Jim Henson, creator of “The Muppets” and the current chairman of The Jim Henson Company. For years Brian has been working with his family in the company as a puppeteer in roles like Jack Pumpkinhead in “Return to Oz” and directing//producing “The Muppet Christmas Carol” and “Muppet Treasure Island”. He was also behind the TV series “Farscape” as the Executive Producer. His latest venture is in reality TV on Syfy with the series “Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge”, which is similar to other Syfy shows like “Face/Off”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Brian about the TV show and also get the scoop on upcoming projects like “The Power of the Dark Crystal” and “Fraggle Rock: The Movie”.

Mike Gencarelli: How did the idea come about to do this show, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge?
Brian Henson: We were trying to think if there is a show that would make sense for The Jim Henson Company in the reality side of television programming. There aren’t many…because we are The Jim Henson Company. Almost everything we do has an element of fantasy or science-fiction in it. In many ways we are the opposite of reality. We make things that reflect on reality and allow you to objectively compare it to what we are presenting. But we decided that one area that is particularly exciting of our company is in the creature designing area. These artists, who are designing, conceiving and then building these creatures, really are like magic. They are extraordinary artists. We thought that doing a show around that aspect would be the most interesting area to the general audience. It is sort of like this secret world. There are no Academy Awards for creature designers. There are some creature designers who have won Academy Awards for costuming, make-up or special effects. Joe FREID, one of the Executive Producers, really shared the same enthusiasm in that area of our company and also has a strong background in reality TV programming. We went out to pitch it and Syfy loved it. We made it pretty close to the “Face/Off” format or even the “Project Runway” format. But what is different about it is that it is going into an area and a type of artist that is much different than anyone has ever seen. It is taking place in the Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and the prize really is a job with us.

MG: How do you come up with the challenges for the show like the first episode’s undersea creature?
BH: We basically kept making lists of creatures that we thought would be interesting. For season one, we said that none of the creatures should be allowed to use any compositing, puppeteer removal or some of the techniques that we would normally use in television or feature films. So that closed us up a little bit and kept us focused for season one. Then we had about 15-20 good ideas on the board and we basically produced what we thought was a good wide range of creatures. One thing that is great about creature making, which perhaps is not true of some of the cousins to our TV show, is they are very different depending on what kind of creature you are looking for and what kind of screen test you presenting at the end of the episode. It means that every episode is able to stand alone and be unique from the one before it, which is a lot of fun. You should also expect the challenges to be more and more ambitious as we go forward, which I think is pretty great.

MG: What are you feelings on CGI versus practical effects like puppet work?
BH: My take on it reflects my background and where I come from and where my dad came from, we are a performance oriented company. So what excites me is performing creatures and puppets. We do some CGI but we call it digital puppetry. The way we do CGI, is that we real-time animate 3D creatures using performers. So if it comes from performance and creating a real moment for the characters then that is what excites me and our company. So in that sense, I prefer the animatronic creatures to the CGI creatures. But that is also due to my background. If someone comes from key frame animation, they may prefer CGI to stop-action animation. But I think there is wonderful space for every technique. There is clearly a sacrifice you make when you decide to go CGI with a creature is that you are not actually creating a real moment that you then photograph. With most of our stuff besides the digital puppetry that we do, what you see has really been created and has been photographed and is now in the movie or TV show. It really happened and was really there. You can’t underestimate the value of that. It may mean that things are not quite as slick or accurate as CGI but it really happened and there is something really delicious and exciting about that. Certainly we have been seeing a big move towards CGI creatures but I think with films like “Where the Wild Things Are”, we are starting to see a movement back towards practical effects. But like I said there is definitely a space for both.

MG: I feel that this show actually brings this type of work back into the spotlight…
BH: Yeah, it’s been like a secret world. Nobody knows how these creatures are built and created. Nobody has done a show like this and it is really interesting watching them work.
MG: Yeah, one thing I would love to learn more about myself is the actual mechanics behind-the-scenes with these creatures.
BH: Well as you watch more of the series you will be more of that as well.

MG: Tell us about choosing your co-judges including Kurt Thatcher and Beth Hathaway?
BH: Initially we weren’t sure if we wanted to go with an all internal panel. Kurt is really an inside guy. Most of the work he has done in his career has been with our company. We wanted it to be as credible as possible because like I said the prize really is a job in the Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Kurt is the type of person who would do the hiring along with me who would also be making those judgment calls. At a certain point, we realized it was just too much Henson. So we reached out to Beth Hathaway, who is also a very experienced creature builder but her background is along the lines of Stan Winston and Rick Baker. It was actually really fun bringing her in since she is kind of an outsider but we just love her. It was good having her point of views and opinions on the judging panel.

MG: What do you see that the future has planned for this type of practical effects and for Jim Henson’s Creature Shop?
BH: I think there is a lot of opportunity for us to do more creature work. I think we are coming out of a time where the industry has been in a flux. I think people are now starting to stabilize and spend more money for cool fantasy/science-fiction characters. I think you will start to see more practical effects…but probably mixed in with some CGI, which is like what “Where the Wild Things Are” was. I think the best creatures yet to come are going to be a little bit of everything used to bring that creature to life.

MG: Do you have any update on The Power of Dark Crystal and Fraggle Rock movie?
BH: The truth is that it took me five years to get “Farscape” on the air. These things take time. Some of that time feels like you are just waiting around. There is a lot of things that need to come together in order to make these projects work. You need to have the right talent, financing and distribution partners. But I can tell you that these both in active development currently within our company. We are determined to get them made. It is big though and a lot of elements need to come together to get a movie made.

Photos courtesy of Syfy

Blu-ray Review “Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th”

Actors: Corey Feldman, Sean S. Cunningham, Adrienne King, Amy Steel, Dana Kimmel
Directors: Daniel Farrands
Producers: Thommy Hutson
Number of discs: 4
Rated: Unrated
Studio: 1428 Films
Release Date: September 13, 2013
Run Time: 400 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“Friday the 13” is one of my favorite horror franchises. Jason Voorhees is also one of my favorite horror icon. The films are so fun and have held up so well over the last 30+ years. The franchise has not only consisted of twelve films but also a TV series, books and tons of collectible merchandise. When you factor in all those aspect, “Friday the 13th” becomes much more than a horror series. It actually is more of a pop-culture phenomenon, which has been over three decades. This is not the first documentary on the films and won’t be the last but it is definitely one of the best, especially alongside others like “His Name is Jason”. When you read the title of this film, it is not taking lightly it’s title…it is “The Complete History of Friday the 13th”. Did I mention that this is 400 minutes long…take a sec and do the math…yes, that nearly seven hours long. This is not a joke. It is a hardcore documentary for a hardcore “Friday the 13th” fan.

Official Premise: Inspired by the critically-acclaimed book, “Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th” takes viewers behind the mask on an epic journey into the making of the landmark horror franchise — from its humble beginnings in 1980 at a New Jersey summer camp to the blockbuster release of its 2009 “reboot.” Combining hundreds of rare and never-before-seen photographs, film clips, outtakes, archival documents, conceptual art and behind-the-scenes footage, and featuring interviews with more than 150 cast and crew members spanning all twelve films and the television series, “Crystal Lake Memories” is the ultimate tribute to one of horror’s most iconic and enduring franchises.

So being a huge fan of this franchise, I was really taken back by the fact that this documentary reached out to so many people who have been involved with the series over the year. This also included a bunch of people who have never appeared in camera interviews, which is a mega plus. A few of the great talent who participated with this doc includes Kane Hodder, Robert Englund, Tom Savini, Sean S. Cunningham, Derek Mears, Betsy Palmer, Wes Craven, Ken Kirzinger, Robert Shaye and Alice Cooper, along with many more. “Crystal Lake Memories” is written and directed by Daniel Farrands and produced by Thommy Hutson. This is the same team who also delivered us the amazing “A Nightmare on Elm Street” documentary, “Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy”. These guys deserve an award for all the word that they put into this doc.

1428 Films released this film as a combo pack with the documentary spread out over two Blu-rays and two DVDs. The 1080p transfer with it’s 1.78:1 aspect ratio works well with the interviews and footage from the films. I was a little bit let down to see that the audio track included was only a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which is not really screaming Blu-ray quality but it worked for the most part. In terms of special features, there are not any additional extras besides a commentary track. But wait a sec…the commentary track is insane a must watch for any true “Friday the 13th” fan. It includes director Daniel Farrands, author Peter M. Bracke, and editor Luke Rafalowski throughout all seven hours. I remember seeing a photo on Facebook of the trio after recording this track and it just shows how much love went into it. Must listen for any fan and a great companion to the documentary.

“Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: The Quest for the Crystal Mickey” DVD Giveaway [ENDED]

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED AND WINNERS HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED VIA EMAIL. PLEASE CHECK BACK EACH WEEK FOR NEW GIVEAWAYS!

To celebrate the DVD release of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: The Quest for the Crystal Mickey!”, Media Mikes would like to giveaway a DVD of the new release! If you would like to enter for your chance to win this great prize, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite character on the show. This giveaway will remain open until May 31st at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US and Canada only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

Official Synopsis: Join Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and all their pals in the newest Clubhouse crusade. When the legendary Crystal Mickey goes missing, Mickey and friends go on an adventure to save the Clubhouse from losing its magic. Grab your hat, buckle your seatbelt, and get ready to embark on a thrilling adventure in “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: The Quest for the Crystal Mickey!” There’s no time to lose after greedy Plunderin’ Pete snatches the legendary Crystal Mickey statue from the Clubhouse. Without this sparkly statue’s magic, the Clubhouse will disappear forever! Can the world’s most extraordinary hero “Kansas City Mickey,” get the magical statue back in time? Only with help from young viewers at home…and the right Mouseketools can Mickey journey across the Sandy Desert, brave the Rushing River and make his way through the Hidden Jungle. But watch out for Pete’s trickiest traps!

DVD Review “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Quest for the Crystal Mickey”

Voices of Bret Iwan, Russi Taylor, Bill Farmer, Tony Anselmo and Tress MacNeille
Studio: Walt Disney Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: May 21, 2013
MPAA Rating: TV-Y
Run Time: 126 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

When I first saw the commercials of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Quest for the Crystal Mickey”, I laughed at loud since I am a huge fan of Indiana Jones.  I thought that this was a super cute idea both for the kiddies and also their parents. The episode is very clever and includes at a lot of great odes to the adventure genre.  Mickey Mouse takes the role of Kansas City Mickey as he and his friends chase down Plunderin’ Pete ( I just love that name BTW). There is some great music included as well. That darn theme song for Kansas City Mickey has been stuck in my head.  Like with all episodes of “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”, there is also some great morals and lessons learned through the show. This is a must have for any fan!

Official Synopsis: Join Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and all their pals in the newest Clubhouse crusade. When the legendary Crystal Mickey goes missing, Mickey and friends go on an adventure to save the Clubhouse from losing its magic. Grab your hat, buckle your seatbelt, and get ready to embark on a thrilling adventure in “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: The Quest for the Crystal Mickey!” There’s no time to lose after greedy Plunderin’ Pete snatches the legendary Crystal Mickey statue from the Clubhouse. Without this sparkly statue’s magic, the Clubhouse will disappear forever! Can the world’s most extraordinary hero “Kansas City Mickey,” get the magical statue back in time? Only with help from young viewers at home…and the right Mouseketools can Mickey journey across the Sandy Desert, brave the Rushing River and make his way through the Hidden Jungle. But watch out for Pete’s trickiest traps!

I have seen some places note that this DVD also comes with “Mickey’s Treasure Map Game with Stickers but that was not included with my package, so I am not sure if it is still happening. What is included though as a bonus are some great episodes of the show for kids (and their parents) besides “The Quest for the Crystal Mickey”. The additional episodes are “Donald Of The Desert,” “Donald The Genie,” “Goofy’s Coconutty Monkey,” and “Goofy’s Giant Adventure.” They stick with the theme of the adventure like “Crystal Mickey” and are really fun episodes.  I mean who doesn’t love to call out for Toodles or doung the Hot Dog dance! Parents you know you do! BTW if you don’t have kids you are probably shaking you head right now but trust me they are catchy and you WILL be doing the same thing if you watch this show every single day!  So fans of Disney Junior and “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”, this is another great release and I highly recommend it!

DVD Review “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic – Adventures in the Crystal Empire”

Actors: Tara Strong, Ashleigh Ball, Tabitha St. Germain
Directors: Jayson Thiessen
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Shout! Factory
Release Date: December 4, 2012
Run Time: 120 minutes

Release: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 1.5 out of 5 stars

When I showed this title to my wife, who grew up with the original 80’s series, the first thing she said is she hated the way the animation looks. I understand where she is coming from but I kind of like of the Japanese anime feel to this new rebooted series. Watching this show with my six month old daughter, she couldn’t take her eyes off the screen. It is like a color and noise explosion for the kids.

There are four episodes includes from “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” series, including “The Crystal Empire Part 1 & 2, Sonic Rainboom, Luna Eclipsed and “It’s About Time”. Though on the same day that this is being release “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic- Season One” is also being released, I would just recommend that one since you get 26 episodes of 5 for only double the price. At the time of writing this review they have aired 57 episodes and are into season three, so Shout Factory better get a move on releasing season two quickly!

Official Premise: In Adventures in the Crystal Empire, a magical empire has suddenly appeared in the arctic north of Equestria, and Princess Celestia needs Twilight Sparkle and her friends to find a way to protect it. While her friends try to keep the Crystal Ponies occupied at the Crystal Faire, Twilight Sparkle searches for the hidden Crystal Heart that is the key to keeping their empire safe from harm!

The show itself is extremely colorful and very eye-catching for kids. The DVD is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and with 2.0 Stereo audio track. If you are looking for more “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”, the series is currently airing on The HUB TV Network. So check it out! The special features are a little light for a kids release but include a coloring sheet and sing-along.

Interview with The Crystal Method’s Ken Jordan

Ken Jordan is one half of the musical team know as The Crystal Method. The group recently appeared in the documentary film “Re:Generation” and is currently working on a new EP. Media Mikes had a chance to talk with Ken recently about the groups products.

Adam Lawton: How did you first get involved with being in “Re:Generation”?
Ken Jordan: Sometime after the Coachella Festival last year we started talking about the idea. We like to jump on any opportunity that shows what we do and helps get our music out to people who might not normally discover it. The chance to be in what looked to be a really good film was very appealing to us. We were comfortable with doing the collaboration as R&B, Funk and Soul has always been a major influence to us. We were very excited to work in those genres. Working with Martha Reeves was really exciting for us.

AL: Was it hard working with the camera around all the time?
KJ: You get your little microphone attached to you and after awhile you forget about it. They were as un-intrusive as they could be. Eventually we got comfortable with them. We weren’t acting or anything so we just focused on making a good song.

AL: Did you find working on the different material changed your writing style at all?
KJ: It was different working with Martha in that way. We had originally thought we needed to deliver the song with completed lyrics and Martha would sing those. However she was not interested in doing that. We were sort of late to deliver the lyrics as we wanted to travel around Detroit and let the lyrics take on a shape of their own. We sprung them on her at the last minute which caused a little bit of conflict. Really all she wanted to do was protect Detroit and didn’t want to sing anything she wasn’t comfortable with. Over all it was a really easy process working with her. I think if we had to do it again we would work out all the lyrics ahead of time with Martha. I do think though that the way things worked out was for the best.

AL: What did you enjoy most about working on the project?
KJ: The whole experience of getting to know Detroit was great. Some of the things we saw during that time we will never forget. When they were tearing down the Ford Theater some of the crew got chunks of the black facade and we all signed each others chunk. We all have a nice souvenir from that. Getting to know Detroit through Martha’s eyes is something we will always keep with us.

AL: Can you tell us about your upcoming EP release?
KJ: The new EP is going to be titled “Sling the Decks” and it should be out this spring. We currently have one tracked titled and are working on the others. We also are working on a single that incorporates elements from a rock super group. That project is still in the early stages but it will be out this year as well.