And now for something completely different. I’ve been toying with this idea for a while now, and today I’ve decided to put that to use. Instead of basically taking forever to do one essay long blog post about a single topic, I’ll be rounding up all recent news/events that have caught my attention or have got me hyped recently. Long story short, it’s pretty much a round-up of the latest news from music and gaming, but with my opinions tacked onto it… and it’ll still probably be essay length (but at least it’ll be about lots of different things, yay!)

First up, in the world of music, and probably the news I’m most excited about (which will surprise no one), is that The Birthday Massacre have finally released the first track off their upcoming album, Under Your Spell. The track is entitled Counterpane, and it’s a bit brilliant! The track kicks off with an aggressive, heavy riff, before transitioning to a mesmerizing synth section, with Chibi delivering soft, beautiful sounding vocals. The production quality is outstanding, and it has even more of an 80’s vibe than ever. If anything, it’s very reminiscent of their earlier works, such as Violet and Walking With Strangers, which has me very excited indeed! It’s certainly a lot darker in tone than more their more recent albums, and if reviews from those that were lucky enough to hear it at a recent listening party are anything to go by, it may very well be their darkest, heaviest album yet. Even better, its been confirmed that Under Your Spell will drop in the next couple of months, pretty much confirming a May release! With this, and 3teeth‘s highly anticipated <shutdown.exe> releasing in the same month, May is looking very exciting for music. If you want to listen to Counterpane for yourself, head on over to The Birthday Massacre’s Pledge Music campaign, donate, and the track will be yours to listen to as much as you wish. Pledges start as low as £8/$9.99 for the ‘Access Pass’, which nets you a digital copy of the album on release, plus access to their update feed. Also, more exclusive and elusive rewards are available at varying prices (I personally pledged twice, as I love them so much!)

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Next up, good and bad news from the world of Ashbury Heights. First off, the bad news is that frontman Anders Hagström, appears to be quite ill. Confirming on band’s Facebook page a few days ago, he states he has been ill for about six weeks, and “is now living almost entirely off liquids.” Whatever this illness is, I really hope it’s sorted soon, and wish him a speedy recovery. I have nothing but kudos for him though, as he still plans to play upcoming live shows, with no plans to cancel yet. In terms of good news, we should be hearing our first taste of Victorian Wallflowers very soon! He has confirmed that the next Electrostorm Sampler will feature the track Science from the upcoming album. He describes the track as “an uptempo synth pop track with heavy 80s vibes and a black heart”, with more info promised soon. I’m intrigued to see where this next chapter takes them, and with the promise of this next outing being highly experimental, we should expect some very special things from this one!

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There also seems to be some surprising developments from Muse, after the Devonshire trio were spotted at Air Studios in London by an avid fan. It was thought that they were practising for their upcoming US tour this summer, but after speaking with them, it was revealed that they’ve been working on “new material.” The band stated that they’ve recorded three new tracks with one “heavy” track and two that are “not so heavy.” As they’ve pretty much said to not expect LP8 until the distant future of 2018, perhaps a new EP is on the way? It’s certainly an exciting prospect. After all, with no album theme or schedule to tie them down, who knows what they’ve come up with? Also, let’s not forget that one of their best (and probably my favourite) tracks was off an EP, Dead Star. However, if the source of this information is from Matt Bellamy, then its pretty difficult to trust. After all he’s vague with his information most the time, let alone completely way off the mark! However, to give him credit, a lot of things he said about Drones turned out to be true, so maybe he’s actually being a lot more up-front this time. Let’s hope that something actually comes of this!

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As for videogames, a slew of new information regarding the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise was revealed this weekend, courtesy of a panel at SXSW (South by Southwest Conference and Festivals.) It appears that the highly anticipated back-to-retro-style Sonic Mania has sadly been pushed back from a Q2 2017 to a vague “Summer 2017” release window. However, the reason given for the delay is so that Sega can ensure that Mania is a “high quality product.” I don’t know about you guys, but this definitely sounds like a completely different Sega to the one we’ve seen in recent years. They have lead us astray before, but hearing this fills me with some confidence and high hopes. Plus, it’s now going to have a physical release, so it’s no longer digital only. This may seem like a surprising move, but considering the massive hype surrounding it, I’m personally not that surprised. I mean, come on… it’s Sonic going back to his glory days of 2D platforming, how can it fail? I’m hoping those aren’t famous last words there. Oh, and Flying Battery Zone from Sonic & Knuckles is getting a ‘remixed’ set of stages too. As I love these stages (and the amazing soundtrack accompanying them), this only fills me with joy!

Sega also lifted the lid on some of the mystery behind ‘Project Sonic 2017’. First of all, the title was revealed which is… *drumroll* …Sonic Forces! Ok, so I don’t know if its just me, but I find the name a little odd, although it is growing on me (plus the pun potential is off the charts.) I have to admit, the logo is rather pretty, and the name is interesting in the sense that “forces” invokes the idea of divisions in some sort of war or battle. Judging by short glimpse of Modern Sonic gameplay that was shown, I’d say that’s not a far off theory! Our blue hero blasts through the level (reminiscent of Rooftop Run from Sonic Unleashed/Generations) at lightning pace, as chaos ensues around him, with Eggman’s robots completely laying waste to the city. It all looks gloriously apocalyptic, and if the teaser and the events around this stage are anything to go by, it appears Eggman has won. If so, then I love this idea! It’d be great to see Sonic and co as the underdogs for once, it could add an interesting dynamic that’s not been explored much in the games before. Of course, this all seems pretty grim. Hell, at one point an air raid siren starts sounding, which is actually pretty damn haunting! Luckily, it was confirmed that this is one of the games “darker moments” and that the entire game won’t have this tone. As for the gameplay, it’s pretty much following on from the Generations style of gameplay by the looks of things. This can only be a good thing, as it was pretty solid, and well balanced. If it ‘aint broke, don’t fix it. Many mysteries still remain, however. How will Classic Sonic play? How is Classic Sonic involved? What other things can we expect? What about this new gameplay mechanic that has been promised? Will that screw everything up? We’ll have to wait until E3 to find out, but for now, we have this to whet our appetites with, and the direction they’re taking with it is very promising so far. Please don’t screw this one up Sonic Team!

One final word before I end this post; I’d like to give a shout out to a colleague, and friend of mine, who, along with his dad, competed on Robot Wars this past weekend with their robot Tauron! Sadly, they went out pretty quickly, due to technical issues, but it was pretty cool to see him on TV (if a bit surreal.) Still, it’s a pretty massive achievement to make it onto the show, so well done to them! Hopefully this won’t be the last we see of them!

Tom and Tim - Team Tauron

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