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Film Review

Ragnar Bragason – “Metalhead” (aka “Málmhaus”) [Movie Review]

I thoroughly enjoyed Metalhead. The cinematography is stunning and the soundtrack is a terrific mix of ’80s and ’90s metal. If you can get by with subtitles, this is a fantastic move that will appeal to metalheads everywhere.

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Metalhead is a dramatic Icelandic film from director Ragnar Bragason that, as I’m sure you deduced, has heavy metal at the center of it all. Here is the setup: the movie’s main character, Hera, loses her older, metal-obsessed brother in a tragic accident and finds she is unable to cope with his death. She, along with her parents, tailspin into a seemingly unending downward spiral that lasts for more than 10 years, leaving them broken and dysfunctional.

Shortly after her brother’s death, she discovers his collection of posters, tapes and records and quickly embraces the scene with all of her being, teaching herself to play guitar and transforming herself physically and mentally along the way. Heavy Metal becomes her obsession and the soundtrack of her life, defining everything she is and does.

The combination of her brother’s death and her bleak outlook on life (she works at a slaughter house), drives her to embrace the darker more extreme sides of the metal scene and she eventually writes and records some very dark, black metal-inspired tunes. This film takes place in the early ’90s and there is a definite tie in with the rash of black metal-related Norwegian church burnings that were prevalent during that time. Spoiler Alert: there is a pivotal scene in the movie when Hera is watching the coverage of the church burnings that sets her on a path of destruction, both literally and figuratively.

Ultimately though, this is a tale of redemption, and through all of her struggles, mistakes, and really bad decisions Hera is able to make peace with her past and move on with her life. With the help of some very interesting and unsuspecting characters, like the newly-appointed town priest, Hera finds her way back and is able to embrace life once again.

I thoroughly enjoyed Metalhead. The cinematography is stunning and the soundtrack is a terrific mix of ’80s and ’90s metal. If you can get by with subtitles, this is a fantastic move that will appeal to metalheads everywhere.

Run Time: 97 minutes
Release Date: March 20, 2015

Check out the “Metalhead” trailer.

Classical

MIZU Releases Hypnotic Video for “Pavane” Single [Video Review]

MIZU (fka Issie Herr), the breathtakingly talented cellist, has released a stunning video for her new single “Pavane” (NNA Tapes).

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MIZU, photo by Chong Gu
MIZU, photo by Chong Gu

MIZU (fka Issie Herr), the breathtakingly talented cellist, is releasing her second album, Forest Scenes, on March 22. Now, she has released a stunning video for the lead single “Pavane.”

These four minutes of mesmerizing imagery would work as effectively as an art installation in a gallery as it does a music video. Shots of the artist in a deep forest setting, dressed in angelic white rags, are juxtaposed with a narrative sequence of the androgynous movement artist Lili (Luyan Li) emerging from a mysterious mirrored casing and crawling across the forest floor.

The film, directed by Dan Silver, is almost hypnotic as strings soar across the claustrophobic landscape and the lone figure of Li seemingly attempts to escape her surroundings. A preview of the album reveals a set of equally immersive soundscapes that, even through the most rudimentary equipment (a battered laptop), swirl around the listener’s head like a soft aural tornado.

Those who found pleasure in MIZU’s relatively recent 2023  debut release, Distant Intervals, will find much to treasure in this new release and accompanying promo.

MIZU ‘Forest Scenes’ album artwork

MIZU ‘Forest Scenes’ album artwork

Director: Dan Silver
Starring: MIZU and Lili
Distributed by: NNA Tapes
Release Date: January 8, 2024
Run Time: 4:20

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Why We Come Back? (Punk Rock Raduno) [Documentary Review]

The mini-doc, ‘Why We Come Back?,’ feels like it is something for those already familiar with the event to use as a tool for nostalgia and reminiscence.

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Why We Come Back? (Punk Rock Raduno)
Why We Come Back? (Punk Rock Raduno)

The Punk Rock Raduno Festival is approaching its 7th year in the idyllic Italian setting of Bergamo, Lombardy.

The mini-doc, Why We Come Back?, unsurprisingly features footage from last year’s festival to tempt even more fans from around the world to attend. The film mainly comprises talking head interviews from the festival organizers, Andrea and Franz, alongside the official photographer, Ludovica, and various well-selected international regular fans. Enthusiastic contributors include a middle-class punk family from England, complete with young daughter and her friend, alongside fans from Brazil and Germany, and comments from the brilliantly named The Useless 4.

The feeling we get from the film is that the festival is a positive event that approaches punk in the most family-friendly way. The sunny nature, described by Ludovica as “colourful,” is certainly tempting for those in search of music and warmth.

Unfortunately, the film rarely moves on from extreme hagiology, as all involved travel in the same direction of delivering nothing but high praise. The lack of any substantial live footage, bar a short montage at the end with a single (not too punky) track playing, does put a strain on your attention span about halfway through.

Some context is added by the organizers as they describe the event as proof that “Rock n Roll history is connected with small towns… it’s a history of outcasts, it’s a history of the wrong place at the wrong time… it could be Bergamo, it could be any small town.”

Thankfully, the Punk Rock Raduno YouTube channel does feature a whole bunch of live performances from past festivals, which provide perhaps a greater incentive for travelling to Italy in search of fun. The documentary certainly feels like it is something for those already familiar with the event to use as a tool for nostalgia and reminiscence.

Why We Come Back? (Punk Rock Raduno) movie poster

Why We Come Back? (Punk Rock Raduno) movie poster

The festival runs from July 11-14, 2024. Get details and tickets here, punkrockraduno.com.

Director: No Elevator Studio
Producer: No Elevator studio
Starring: The Useless 4
Distributed by: Punk Rock Raduno
Release Date: December 21, 2023
Run Time: 21 minutes

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Dance/Electronic

Ki Oni – “A Leisurely Swim to Everlasting Life – Live at dublab” (AKP Recordings) [Documentary Review]

‘A Leisurely Swim to Everlasting Life’ (AKP Recordings) is a wonderfully calming mini-documentary that draws you in slowly and leaves you wanting to discover more about Ki Oni.

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Ki Oni ‘A Leisurely Swim To Everlasting Life’ album artwork
Ki Oni ‘A Leisurely Swim To Everlasting Life’ album artwork

Ki Oni released his album, A Leisurely Swim to Everlasting Life, on August 25, 2023. It is a soothing and inspirational album of ambient soundscapes that received high global praise.

The artist (real name Chuck Soo-Hoo), who hails from Virginia, has now dropped an accompanying mini-documentary that takes us through an intricate recording process and allows Ki On the opportunity to discuss the inspiration behind his work.

It is fascinating to watch as he lays out his somewhat simple tools in a small studio and begins producing the meditative sounds that emanate from this almost ceremonial process.

What is interesting is how he describes the music as something to listen to at “Indoor swimming pools, long drives at night or rambling in the forest,” which re-evaluates the experience of listening to music, not necessarily at a gig or festival, but during general living.

He discusses how his music is directly influenced by daily life, via watching a basketball game or drinking coffee, and how he includes field recordings of his bicycle ride to work or raindrops on a window. We can view this as a new, possibly post-COVID attitude to music production that takes the DIY ethic to another level. Or we can simply accept that this is just beautiful ambient music.

The passing of his grandmother inspired the album. In the doc, he reminisces about spending time with her in her garden. He uses the example of Gaspar Noe’s film Enter the Void as a way of describing how he views his grandmother’s journey to the other side. In the film, the protagonist takes a journey following his death, floating across the city and checking out with all his friends and family before moving on. Whilst Noe’s movie is jarring and explicit, Ki Oni’s journey is, in his own words, “meditative.” It brings beauty and calm to a concept/journey most of us fear.

As the film draws to a close, Ki Oni introduces a flute to the mix, which he breathes into softly. This completes the picture of an artist finding a balance between electronica and more organic instrumentation.

This is a wonderfully calming film that draws you in slowly and absolutely leaves you wanting to discover more about this intriguing artist and his work.

Director: Christian Kim
Producer: Scott Osgood
Starring:  Chuck Soo-Hoo / Ki Oni
Distributed by: AKP Recordings
Release Date: January 16th, 2024
Run Time: 8 minutes

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