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Corporation is a club and live music venue in Sheffield that I’ve been going to since I was able. I went last night for the first time in a while and had an epic and metal time so figured I’d write about the club here. I’m covered in bruises from the mosh pit in the main room last night so am in a lot of pain on top of the hangover, so if this review is a bit rambling and doesn’t make sense I apologise.

I’ll talk about the club night to start with.

woo, corp.

The main room downstairs

Corp club nights are best known for what is known as the corp goo, the strange sticky yet slippery substance that by the end of the night covers the floors and walls. However, as long as you don’t fall over this isn’t a problem. When you walk into the club you are greeted by a black, dark bar with music blaring in from all sides and a crush of people moving between rooms. As a first timer this can be a little intimidating, I remember arriving on my 18th birthday and thinking ‘what the fuck am I doing here’, but you quickly realise that this oppressive atmosphere is just on the surface, and underneath it all is a club full of strange and awesome people. You get all sorts here, from indie kids, to chavs, to crazy metal heads clad in leather, and Corp caters for all of them. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays you have the standard Corp club nights, with strikingly different genres of music in each room, hardcore metal in the small room, hard rock and pop metal in the main room interspersed with dubstep and dnb, and RnB or cheesy pop in the upstairs room. So if you get bored of one thing, you can go to a different room. And these rooms switch around or change their music for each day, so it’s rarely the same on each club night. On top of that, on a wednesday the bottom two rooms open up for ‘school disco’ where Corp tries its hand at being a normal club, providing discounts for people in school uniform and playing dance, rnb, and indie. One recent addition to the main club nights is the final hour or so of dubstep. I first came across this in the metal room on a new years club night, when at about 2, they played the usual classic rock finishing songs (though they’re never the same ones so you can’t always tell) and everyone was gearing up to be kicked out, when suddenly the floor exploded with vibrations and the bass kicked in. In the small, cramped, metal room, the bass from the speakers just shoots up through you and really gets into your head. It’s amazing. I reckon I could say that I haven’t had a bad night at any of the club nights corp. Oh, and there’s a balcony and seating area above the upstairs dance room for those of you who want to chill for a bit.

View from the balcony

The people that turn up to these night’s are generally pretty cool too. You hear about people starting fights or getting beaten up by bouncers but those stories tend to be spread by people who want to sound cool or that are being dragged along by their mates. I personally have only seen one of these incidents where a friend of mine got into some mess some huge metal guy back when we were 18 but this was quickly sorted out by the bouncer who managed to break it up without any violence and later apologised to my friend for the trouble. In general most of the people you meet will be friendly and chilled out. I generally don’t have a night where I don’t end up having a random conversation with random people in the queue for the bar, and after my A levels when I went every week I even started to get to know some of the regulars.

The drinks prices are astounding too, for a club night. 50p for a vodka + mixer on  a monday, £1.50 for a pint of carlsberg on a friday, and various other deals on alcopops and “cocktails”. I have to say I’ve never seen prices that low in a club.

Sadly though, It’s often the live music nights where Corporation doesn’t live up to expectations. The large, wide, main room, which is perfect for club nights, is a let down when it comes to bands. The rails which surround the dance floor, for the purpose of putting your drinks down on it, get in the way and break up the crowd, meaning that if you don’t get a good spot early on you may end up stuck behind them and out of the action. The sound desk too, gets put right in the middle of the dance floor. One other feature of the main room is the large gap between the stage and the crowd, meaning that it becomes difficult for bands to interact with the crowd, and at hardcore gigs prevents any stage diving or real crowd surfing. The hight of the stage also contributes to this, with it being quite high above the ground.

The Mirimar Disaster in 2007

The small room is also used for less popular gigs or gigs on club nights (as it’s easily separated). Though you’d think this would be a more personal experience, the hight of the stage again causes you to feel separated from the band. This, combined with the poor layout of the room, with the dance floor being raised above the floor around the bar and room entrance splitting up the crowd, and the same drinks ledges causing separation again. Despite all this though, I have been to some very good gigs at Corp and they do bring in some popular bands.

Yet another thing that corp do best is the hangover. I’ve never had a hangover like the ones I’ve had after a night in corp. Sure singing along to songs at other clubs can break your voice, but singing along to metal all night, while headbanging, moshing, and dancing absolutely destroys you. The whole combination just prevents you from doing anything productive the next day. Though yes, I am aware that I’m doing this while hungover from corp, but meh, it’s not exactly a well written review is it 😛 .

Today I completed Assassins Creed II and I have to say, I’m very impressed by it.

Assassins creed 2 cover

Most of my views on the original AC were the same as those expressed by almost everyone that played it; too repetitive, the story was silly, the cutscenes and death monologues boring, and the combat a bit dull, and I think Ubisoft have improved on every aspect of that.

Lets talk about the story first. AC II picks up where the original left off, with Desmond locked up in the Templars (or whatever the corporation was called) and within the first few minutes you’re breaking out. Soon enough you’re back in the animus and into the memories of Ezio Auditore in 14 century Italy. Though I felt at several points the story seemed pointless and often padded out with unnecessary missions and details, it was put together much better than the original, with everything eventually coming together towards the final mission. Because of the seemingly padded out story, however, I did find myself getting frustrated. Every time I came close to what I thought was the end, something happened to add another level or another plot twist. In some ways this is a good story telling device, showing you your goal before taking it away in order to keep you interested, keep your eyes on the prize, but I felt it detracted from the experience. Though AC was repetitive, the fact that you had a clear objective, assassinate 9 (was it 9? it’s been a while since I played it) important figures in order to reach your nemesis and regain your honour, and the story was wound around that. However, when I reached the ending it all felt worth it. A disappointing final showdown but the final cutscene followed by the little bit in the credits really sealed the story.

The gameplay has been improved somewhat as well, though many features have lost something in the transition. I felt that the combat and free-running, though much more varied, were much less flowing. I often found myself feeling detached from the awesome rooftop chases or simply getting from A to B due to the sketchyness of the direction sensitivity and difficult in limiting your jumps. More often than not I found myself jumping to my death when all I wanted to do was jump to the next rooftop or ledge, either by jumping in a completely unintended direction or through Ezio simply jumping as far as he can when all I want him to do is hop down. However, towards the end of the game I found myself working around this, following the flow of the rooftops much better, and better judging where I need to aim myself in order to land on that small flagpole, and in many ways this made the game feel much fuller. Through my own improvement at playing the game it felt as if it was part of Ezio’s journey towards becoming a fully fledged assassin. The combat however, still remained disjointed and slow.

New assassinations utilise Ezio's ability to scale buildings and jump from roof to roof

I may be wrongly remembering the combat of the original, but I felt that, despite the new options with disarming opponents and extra assassination techniques, I spent even more time standing around waiting for people to attack me so I could counter and do some damage. Speaking of assassinations, the new techniques did eventually lead to some entertaining kills and tense moments of sneaking, but they too felt disjointed. The unresponsiveness of them meant that often I’d be running towards an archer hoping to jump on him and make the kill only to find myself running in circles waving my arms about like an idiot. Or I’d be hoping to take out two guards in one go in order to avoid being seen, only for Ezio to grab the one right in plain view of the other. The gun, rather than feeling as cool as it looked in the trailers, felt like a cheat and I ended up only using it for situations where I couldn’t be bothered to figure out a way of sneaking past guards. Despite all this though, there were many ‘epic’ battles and assassinations which satiated my blood lust for the day.

An example of one of the cool looking battles.

Other aspects of the game have been improved too, the voice acting, graphics, and music have all been improved upon. And the extras are pretty good too. Having  completed the game I’m finding myself wanting to play more to find all the ‘glyphs’ and unlock ‘the truth’ if only to find out what it is. I often found myself distracted from missions in order to run off in search of the codex pages, which paid off in the end as you have to find any you haven’t already found in order to progress eventually.

One side quest that I did get annoyed about, but only through my own failings, was the armour of Altair. I managed to unlock it before the final mission, and equipped it, but then before leaving to go to Rome, I went to the armourer to buy the Sword of Altair and found myself figuring I might as well buy everything, including all the other swords and armour. Though I remembered to get the sword from the villa armoury, I forgot to get the armour, as I’d ended up equipping the armour I’d bought without realising, and went off to Rome wearing a mixture of leather and metal, meaning I had almost half the health I’d had before. However this proved only to be detrimental to the aesthetics of the final levels and I got through it without any extra trouble.

The inclusion of extra characters was a welcome addition too. Ezios friendship with Leonardo Da Vinci, and his relationships with the people he meets along the way and how they develop were a nice break from the killing.

All in all, Assassins Creed II is a fun game. Though I wouldn’t recommend going off and buying it new, I reckon it would make a nice second hand or sale purchase.

Speaking of buying it, there’s been a lot of fuss about the fact that you have to stay connected to the internet in order to play and save your games. To be honest, most of the fuss has come from the hacking community and people who download their games illegally, but I can see both sides of the argument. This effectively cuts the game off from anyone who has a dodgy internet connection or no internet at all. I also understand that despite all this anti piracy protection, the crackers have already developed a work around by simply creating a program which creates a server simulation and redirects all traffic from the game to that, allowing you to save your games to your computer and play the game with or without an internet connection, and only after a month or so delay. Pointless really. I have a lot of opinions on piracy which I won’t go into here, in many cases I support it, as with the huge number of games coming out nowadays it is impossible to afford to play all the ones you want to, especially for a student like me. However piracy is slowly beginning to drive developers away from the PC, meaning big titles that I’ve been looking forward to, such as Alan Wake, have abandoned the PC in favour of consoles. It also prevents smaller developers from making games for the PC as they can’t afford for people to not buy their games. However, I believe the best anti-piracy policy is to include a decent multiplayer with the game. Look at Modern Warfare 2 and Bad Company 2. My opinions extend to music too, but I won’t go into this any more.

Glad I managed to get this review done today, especially having just made a post saying that I wouldn’t do any for a few days. Just shows what playing a good game can do for the soul.

Also I laughed like an idiot at this bit.

I’m afraid this lack of posts is likely to continue for a couple more days. I’ve been spending most of my time writing my dissertation or revising for exams, and have been spending any spare time I have either outside, drinking, or playing Assassins Creed II. I’ve got 4 half-started reviews saved in the drafts sections and will hopefully get time to finish them over the next week.

However, to keep people entertained for now (I say people, I think there’s been maybe 10 views of this all together, but I shall continue to pretend like everyone reads this) I shall post this. A brief overview of Wnt signalling taken from my dissertation. Enjoy.

The Wnt proteins comprise a large, complex and highly conserved family of secreted glyco-lipoproteins which act as signalling proteins and growth factors. Identified by amino acid sequence rather than functional properties, Wnt proteins are found to be involved in a large number of developmental and homeostatic processes, their involvement in stem cell maintenance and differentiation being a recent driving factor towards understanding an already popular field of research. There are currently at least 19 known Wnts which can be classified as either canonical, signalling through inducing the build-up of intracellular β-catenin, and non-canonical Wnts which signal through other β-catenin independent processes (fig. 1)(9). Both pathways rely largely on the frizzled receptor which binds Wnt in the presence of its co-receptors.

Fig 2.1. Diagram illustrating canonical and non-canonical Wnt signalling pathways. Taken from L. Ling et al (2009)(9)

Non-canonical signalling invokes several β-catenin independent pathways via the activation of the frizzled (fz) receptor and co receptors such as Ror2 and Ryk and transduction through diverse mechanisms dependant on either the Dishevelled (Dvl or Dsh) downstream effector, or Ca2+. Dvl can be activated by fz directly or through the induction of heterodimeric G-proteins. Dvl has been shown to activate the small GTPase RhoA and its effector ROK (Rho-associated kinase) in order to regulate actin cytoskeleton. Another downstream effector of Dvl is JNK which can be activated by RhoA to regulate PCP (planar cell polarity) during eye development. Signal transduction through Ca2+ activates nemo-like kinase (NLK) and the nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) with NLK inhibiting canonical Wnt signalling through the phosphorylation of TCF/LEF. (9)

Canonical Wnt signalling is based around the concept of allowing an increase in the concentration of cytoplasmic β-catenin and facilitating its translocation into the nucleus through inhibition of β-catenin degredation which takes place in the absence of Wnt. The canonical Wnt pathway is initiated by the binding of Wnt to frizzled (Fz) and its co-receptor LRP5/6. Fz contains 7 transmembrane regions and an amino-terminal extension rich in cysteine residues (10) and was first discovered through a mutation which disrupted the planar cell polarity in the wing hairs of mutant drosophila, causing them to point in different directions. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor related protein (LRP) is a single pass transmembrane molecule and is also essential for successful Wnt signal transduction. Wnt forms a trimeric complex with Fz and LRP leading to the phosphorylation of the Fz bound protein Dvl, mediated by several protein kinases, and of LRP, allowing the docking of Axin with LRP. In the absence of Wnt, Axin is part of the β-catenin degradation complex, consisting of glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β), Axin, Adenomatous Polypopsis coli (APC), and β-catenin. This complex facilitates the phosphorylation of β-catenin by the serine/threonine kinases, casein kinase Iα (CKIα) and allows the phosphorylated β-catenin to be recognised by β-TrCP and targeted for ubiquitonation which leads to degradation by the proteosome. The binding of Axin by phosphorylated LRP5/6 along with the inhibition of GSK-3β by phosphorylated Dsv prevents the formation of the β-catenin degradation complex and facilitates its cytoplasmic accumulation. Axin can also be recruited to Dsv due to the DIX domain which both Axin and Dsv contain. This region is capable of homodimerization in Axin but can also be heterodimerize with the DIX domain of Dsv. The increased stability of β-catenin leads to its nuclear translocation where it converts the TCF/LEF DNA-binding proteins into transcriptional activators through the displacement of Groucho, a protein bound to TCF/LEF causing it to act as a transcriptional repressor, from the proteins and recruitment of the histone acetylase CBP/p300. This results in the transcription of Wnt activated genes normally suppressed by TCF/LEF in the absence of Wnt. (11)(12)(13)(14)

Due to laziness and lack of time for anything I’m going to do a ‘here’s one I made earlier’. This is a brief review of some of the current views on the relationship between DNA damage and ageing I did as an essay last year. It was give a 2.1 so hopefully it’ll be an enjoyable and enlightening read. lol.

DNA Damage: A Cause or Consequence of Aging?

There many interacting factors which contribute to the appearance of aging. From the specific death or loss of function of individual cells, to the dysfunction and gradual decline of individual tissues, and eventually the physical and mental ability of a whole organism. However recent research into aging has been focused on our genes, how they are affected by the passage of time, and how this affects the aging process. It is known that there are many external factors that can cause damage to our DNA such as UV light, excessive unhealthy food, and various toxic compounds we encounter in daily life. However this is not all that causes our DNA damage, internal factors such as reactive oxygen species can cause oxidative damage, and telomeres, our own genetic clock, are degraded with every cell division, ultimately resulting in senescence. How do all these factors cause damage to our DNA and how is this related to aging?

DNA damage by reactive oxygen species as a cause of aging.

One of the most popular theories relating DNA damage to aging is the free radical theory. During normal cellular metabolism the mitochondria produce reactive oxygen species (ROS), highly reactive ions or small molecules which can be damaging to certain elements of the cell if left unchecked. The cell produces enzymes to actively scavenge these harmful ROS such as superoxide dismutases or catalases as well as dietary antioxidants such as vitamin C which, under normal circumstances, prevent ROS levels from becoming harmful to the cell. However, in certain situations when the cell is put under stress and mitochondrial activity is increase, such as during strenuous exercise, ROS levels can increase above levels which can be managed by enzymes. ROS levels can also be raised in cells in close proximity to fatty deposits, such as in the brain, due to increased metabolic rates. This increase of ROS is known as oxidative stress and can potentially cause damage to the DNA, cell membranes, and organelles through oxidation. The free radical theory suggests that ROS at normal levels are not scavenged with complete efficiency, and those that are left unchecked cause small amounts of damage to mitochondrial DNA. Combined with the higher levels of ROS involved in oxidative stress, over time this results in a cumulative build up of damage in mtDNA.

Oxidative damage to mtDNA can be in the form of base modifications, abasic sites, and various other lesions (Druzhyna. 2008). One of the more widely studied forms of oxidative damage is 8-oxoGuanine (8-oxoG) which results in a G-C to A-T mutation. Several studies have shown that levels of 8-oxoG damage increase in both mtDNA and nuclear DNA with age. In mtDNA this process becomes a vicious cycle as increased amounts of damage result in less efficient oxidative phosphorylation and an increase in ROS levels, causing further damage. Eventually the accumulation of oxidative damage in the mtDNA results in the cell undergoing apoptosis. Evidence for this was shown in experiments using mice deficient in mtDNA repair mechanisms, the mice expressed a faster aging phenotype than normal mice and were found to have increased numbers of cells undergoing apoptosis, shown by increased levels of cleaved caspase-3 in older tissues (Kujoth et al. 2005). The model proposed from these findings was that the increased numbers of cells undergoing apoptosis was the cause of the tissue dysfunction observed in aging phenotypes. This model would suggest that in this case, DNA damage is a cause of aging.

Cellular senescence as a consequence of aging.

Another important model proposed as a consequence of aging is cellular senescence. Senescence was first described by Hayflick and Moorfield in 1961 when they discovered that normal human fibroblasts had a replication limit in vitro, eventually undergoing morphological changes and an irreversible cell cycle arrest. The cells also undergo changes in genetic expression, with the production of certain proteins being completely stopped and others genes becoming upregulated, including many genes coding for secretory proteins (Jayapalan. 2008).

The most widely understood reason for this was discovered to be the shortening of telomeres due to the end replication problem, a mechanism by which a small amount of DNA (30-50bp) is lost with each round of replication. This kind of telomere dependant senescence is known as ‘intrinsic senescence’ and is regulated by the p53 and p16 enzymes (Itahana et al. 2004). Though the mechanism by which the shortening of telomere length is detected by p53 is still unknown it is thought that the critical shortening of telomeres results in a disruption of the looped structure they form. This results in either the detection of the end of the DNA strand being interpreted by damage repair enzymes as a break in the chromosome, eventually leading to the activation of p53, or the disassociation of telomere associated proteins, a process known as uncapping, which could also be detected by p53 through either phosphorylation or acetylation (Itahana et al. 2004).

Senescent cells have been found in many niches in vivo, frequently in damaged, diseased, or aging tissues. The many different factors secreted by senescent cells are thought to be highly involved in age related pathologies due to their action on healthy cells. These factors are harmless in small amounts but as the organism ages the number of senescent cells increases, in vivo studies have shown whole cell cultures can eventually become senescent, and this increase in senescent cells results in an increase in secreted factors which can reach damaging concentrations. The proteins secreted include proteases which in high concentrations cause massive disruption of tissues. In some studies senescent cells have been shown to secrete cytokines which stimulate the expression of growth factors in healthy cells, causing increased proliferation and further tissue disruption. They have also been shown to secrete various other degradative enzymes and inflammatory cytokines causing the appearance of aging phenotypes (Jayapalan. 2008). Senescent cells have also been detected in premalignant cancers and have also been shown to cause a progression of premalignant cells to malignant.

Senescent cells are thought to be an evolutionary mechanism developed to suppress the occurrence of tumours and other diseases caused by DNA damage, as the reaction to shortened telomeres reduces the chance of loss of coding DNA from the genome. However, with longer life comes an increased build up of senescent cells. Further support for this theory of senescence being a protective mechanism against DNA damage comes from the telomere independant pathway of senescence, ‘extrinsic senescence’ (Itahana et al. 2004). This can be caused by damage to the DNA unrelated to telomere length, the most common type of damage reacted to being oxidative damage. Cells can undergo senescence by this pathway through other forms of external stress such as through toxins or mutagens.

An important factor in the mechanisms of aging is the action of DNA repair mechanisms. Genetic disorders such as Werner Syndrome (WS) and other progeroid syndromes are caused by the dysfunction of certain DNA repair mechanisms and have been used in some studies to gain an insight into changes in gene expression during aging through comparisons of normal older cells and young cells to WS cells (KJ Kyng et al. 2005). One study in particular by Kyng et al showed varied changes in overall gene expression, but specific DNA repair mechanisms were shown to be downregulated in old and WS cells. The study also showed that WS cells were particularly susceptible to damage by 4NQO which induces bulky DNA adducts, strand breaks, and interestingly due to its proposed involvement in aging, oxidative damage. Other repair mechanisms appeared to be active, such as UV damage response, though it was suggested that this could explain the lack of other age related symptoms such as senility.

One experimental model used to investigate the influence of DNA damage repair on aging is to compare the repair capabilities of species with different lifespans, for example, a mouse to a human. This is done by measuring the number of DNA abnormalities in vivo. Interestingly it has been found that the rate of occurrence of DNA damage in mouse and human T cells is similar, however human cells possess a much higher capacity for repair, so the total amount of DNA damage in the genome accumulates slower. Despite a large amount of data to support the relationship between DNA repair and species longevity there is little conclusive evidence to support it (Vijg. 2008)

Base excision repair (BER) is a DNA repair mechanism important in repairing spontaneous damage and mutagenesis and is one of the main repair pathways. DNA polymerase-β is the main protein involved in this process and is used to analyse BER activity. Several studies have been performed analysing BER activity levels in cells taken from varying ages of both mice and humans however the results have been said to be unreliable in some cases, due to their variation. Despite their variation though, studies by Cabelof et al and Intano et al both showed that BER activity reduces with age in various tissues and later, more accurate studies have confirmed this (Xu et al. 2008). Similar studies in humans have yielded results in agreement with the results obtained from mice. Several interesting studies into diet have revealed that reduced calorie intake causes an increase in the activity of BER in mice, reversing the age related decline. However, the age related conditions which cause the decline of BER activity are still unknown. Nucleotide excision repair (NER) is a DNA repair mechanism involved in repairing helix disrupting damage. NER is especially important in repairing UV damage to the genome. Several age related phenotypes can be seen in people with NER defects, including rapid photoaging of the skin and eyes, the early onset of neurodegeneration, reduced proliferation of hematopoietic stem cells, and an increased risk of cancer are some of the most serious (Neidernhofer. 2008).

These are just a few of the many factors that contribute to both DNA damage and the aging process. It is unclear with many of them as to whether or not they are a causative factor in aging or simply a consequence. The accumulation of DNA damage with time can be seen as a cause of the aging phenotype, but whether or not it is a cause or consequence of aging could depend on how you view age. If you consider aging as the change in mental and physical ability, then it would be easy to class DNA damage as a cause of this. However it is also possible to view aging simply as the passage through time, which would lead to think of the accumulation of DNA as a consequence of time, and therefore aging. As well as these two views there is also the issue of cellular senescence as a consequence of telomere degradation. This could also easily be seen as both a cause and consequence of aging, senescence being a consequence of repeated cell divisions, but proteins secreted by senescent cells being a cause of many of the physical changes associated with aging. Extensive research into various mechanisms of DNA damage and their relationship to aging is still being carried out. Comparative studies between species with different longevities are still being carried out using new techniques in comparative genomics. Still very little is known about the mechanisms by which DNA damage repair pathways become downregulated with age, whether it’s due to damage to promoters as a consequence of age, or a programmed change in cellular function.

In a rant I posted about C&C4 I mentioned Men of War and how it mixes up the types of combat and keeps the player interested through the use of massive battles contrasted with small personal encounters.

Well I just played a level which is basically an on-a-rail shooter following the 4 main allies characters in an armoured car. This then switches to having 3 of them fight through an enemy occupied village to find fuel, before switching to a 3rd person on-a-rail chase scene (which I’ve not yet completed as I’m about to go out).

But you can see with this how easy it is to put something in that is just cool.

[Edit] I kind of realised I mostly bullshitted this review, I’m not even sure if half of it makes sense. I’ve not really stopped these last few days. If you can’t be bothered to read this, Crack the Skye is a very good album and is worth a listen. [/Edit]

It had been a long time since I last listened to Mastodon. I first heard them not long after the release of Blood Mountain which I thoroughly enjoyed. However I never really heard their earlier albums, and after I got bored of Blood Mountain I didn’t really pay any more attention to them. However, I bought Crack the Skye for my dad as a birthday present, got listening to it myself and haven’t been able to stop.

Crazy album art

It seems Mastodon have continued to take progressive metal to new levels with this album. On the whole they’ve taken a much slower approach this time, introducing the album with the melodic ‘Oblivion’, instantly creating a completely different sound and feel for the album when compared to the bone crunching ‘Blood and Thunder’ and ‘The Wolf is Loose’. This slower and more melodic tone is carried throughout without losing any of the heaviness and while still managing to keep the attention of the listener with it’s pacing and changing melodies.

It’s easy to see why the adverts appearing on websites surrounding the album’s release were heralding Mastodon as saviours of metal with Crack the Skye. When you look at many of the bands at the forefront of metal some of them are really thoughtless and shallow musically, you just need to watch 10 minutes of Kerrang or Scuzz to tell that, and you have to dig really deep in the pile to find something good. Between the Buried and Me, or The Mirimar Disaster are two lesser known gems. Though Between the Buried and Me are still going strong, the Sheffield based The Mirimar Disaster sadly no longer are.

Anyway, back to the music, the album slips effortlessly between the epic, the heavy, and the dark, with Mastodon seeming to attempt to encompass as many of the qualities of metal that they can. Take ‘The Last Baron’ as an example. The opening 3 minutes bring in these rising vocals and slow guitar (the epic) before stepping back into a psychedelic bridge leading into a strangely dark (though I can’t put my finger on why) section of vocals with the guitars stripped back to a minimum, before opening up with the heavy once again. Then, ‘wtf?’, weird proggy guitar solo in the middle of everything. First time I heard it it actually made me laugh. I’m not quite sure about this, being a fan of tech metal I do enjoy a random little riffy proggy solo in the middle of everything but here it feels out of place. This leads back into the rest of the song which continues in much of the same vein. And this is the only complaint I have about the album. It does sometimes feel like some of the music has been put in just for the sake of it, ‘hey why don’t we do this?’, ‘Hah yeah’. Though that is how my band write songs so I can’t really complain.

All in all this is a very enjoyable album.

I guess there’s not much more I can say. Oh yeah, I found an instrumental version online which, if you like bands like Pelican, you will love.

Also, Mastodon have awesome beards.

Except the drummer. Letting the side down mate!

So I spent the first half of the day writing my dissertation, and the second half playing Assassins Creed II. Now it’s 11.30 and I’m sitting here with a cat on my lap really not knowing what to review and thinking about bed (I have a driving lesson and work tomorrow). However I want to keep up with the post every day routine I’ve got into. So here’s a little more about the Round Walk with some more photos I uploaded to facebook (they were too big to upload straight to here).

We started off in Bingham park, seeing as that’s near where I live and followed the route through the park up to forge dam, and on to the Norfolk Arms pub. This is a walk we’ve done many times before so was nothing particularly new and seemed to fly by in a quick 2 hours. As always though, it was a nice easy walk with no real effort needed.

Following the Porter Brook upstream

View across the city

After the Norfolk Arms we turned off on a different route from the one we normally take on our walks out to Hathersage and ended up in a boggy field (see the picture in the previous post), leading eventually to yet another woodland path following yet another stream. This whole area was really nice, most of it with views towards, and away from the city. It was also probably the easiest part of the walk, considering it was mostly flat and well signposted.

Nicely signposted

There were some obstacles

This path continued for some time with little change, though for me it was nice to see an area of Sheffield I’d never seen before. Eventually we came out into Door (I think) where we crossed over into Ecclesall woods for yet more woodland paths. There were some interesting sights along the way, and a few dog walkers were about too. We did eventually get lost after leaving Ecclesall woods and heading towards Beauchief , as one of the signposts was set back into the road it was indicating so was very easy to miss when following the route, so after a brief wander up the road and back again, we eventually crossed the rail tracks near the Door station and found the route past the Beauchief Golf Course.

April Showers

"Coat on, coat off." April Showers

the first hill we'd come across!

After we passed the golf course we went down a couple of country roads and nice paths with archways of trees etc etc, then ended up coming towards some of the not so well kept areas of Sheffield. We spent half the time here trying to figure out which way to go, as most of the signs had been stolen from the poles, so at every crossroad there was a green pole with nothing on it showing us the way.

"Die Townies" lol

There were parks in between those two photos. By this point in time we’d been through quite a few, mostly just for moments at a time before going back into woodland. By the end neither Jen nor I could remember which ones we’d been to and in which order, the only reason I remembered there was one in between these photos was because of the other photos I took.

So we carried on through the mostly un-signposted routes for some time, stopping for a quick sandwich and cream eggs when we eventually ended up in the suburbs. After about 20 minutes of walking through the streets we came across a nice old house at the entrance to one of the parks.

There was an information plaque thing but we didn't read it

This, however, was quickly trumped by this.

Amazing view of the city. We sat down for 5 minutes to look at it.

An example of the between park sections of the walk.

Eventually, after getting lost a bit and having to find our way back to the route, we ended up in Hunters Bar. If you like the Arctic Monkeys you may have heard of it. I don’t like the Arctic Monkeys.

Having walked 14 miles we felt we deserved a bit of a sit down, so we stopped in the Porter Brook pub for a drink and a bite to eat. Fortunately for us, having arrived at 5.05, we were able to partake in the offer of a free beer with a burger that started at 5. What luck.

Here’s me eating a huge gourmet burger – MASSIVE burger, bacon, onion rings, BLUE CHEESE? WOAH!

It looks horrbile, but was delicious. I was full the next morning!

Don’t I look awesome?

Well anyway, by the time we were finished there it was after 6 so we figured we’d better continue into the sunset and finish the walk. Through Endcliffe park we went.

Probably the nicest park in Sheffield

We fed the ducks with some bread Jen was carrying around for THE WHOLE WALK


Finally we reached the top of the hill and I was home. Jen had to walk a bit more as she lives 20 minutes away, but she does this sort of thing for a degree so it’s ok.

In conclusion. A really nice walk, even with the rougher areas and the confusing road sections. I was absolutely exhausted by the end of it, but not so much so that it was unpleasant. Jen can be quoted saying it was “the easiest 14 miles ever”. So there’s another point of view.

If you want to see some of Sheffield and don’t mind your legs aching a bit the next day, then give it a go. It’s good fun.

I got back from this 30 minutes ago and am far too tired to write a review so here’s one my friend I walked with wrote.

We went on the walk and it was cloudy and then it rained and then it was sunny and it was good.

Jen. Age 20.

Jen. Age 20.

I’ve already done two posts today, only one of them a review per se. So I’ll keep this brief.

I’ve just watched the first 2 episodes of The Pacific and it’s really really good.

That is all.

I’ve been playing Command and Conquer 4 over the last couple of days  and I have to say, as a fan of the C&C franchise, I’m disappointed.

C&C 1995 - Westwood studios knew what they were doing

I’ve never really been one for online strategy games (except at lan parties or with friends) so the single player is my main focus and 4 levels in I find myself confused and disappointed. I know EA wanted to go for a new take on the strategy game, and have been trying to change C&C since they got it, but I still haven’t played one better than the first. Admittedly the first was too hard, and considering I must’ve been younger than 10 when I first played it I never really got anywhere. I’ve actually been meaning to find a copy of it to try and complete. But to be constantly lowering the difficulty level and shortening the campaign just means the game feels like it has nothing to it.

Looks cool. Nice ideas. Lacks scale or personality.

Take the Company of Heroes series as an example. The single player was extremely challenging, with diverse missions with varying objectives and victory conditions, ranging from hilltop defences, to rushes through enemy territory, and even a stealth mission. Each one had you feeling like you were putting your all into completing each mission, while still making it easy enough to get through.

CoH - The intensity of battles really gets your heart pumping

A more recent strategy game that I also enjoyed thoroughly is Men of War. The Russian campaign was especially good. Though the voice acting was bad, and the story lacking, the gameplay was extremely involving. Especially the missions with limited forces. I remember one particular one where you start off with one guy who’s been left behind. You help some resistance fighters defeat a german patrol and you’re joined by the 10 of them. You then have this force and this force only to attack the german defences in the area. A computer controlled band of resistance fighters does assist you, but they do little more than keep the germans occupied on one flank. It’s left to you to flank round the german machine guns and attack the town hall. The only way in being the heavily guarded front door. During the flanking manouver, all but 4 of my people got killed when one soldier spotted them taking cover behind a low wall. The remaining 4 managed to take cover ready to flank. Now this is where it got good. One of the resistance fighters happened to be carrying some dynamite. I got him to steal a german light machine gun, and sneak round to the back of the town hall. Placed the dynamite at several places on the back wall before detonating it and mowing down around 10 people that became exposed. This prompted many of the other german forces in the area to come running, right into the line of fire of my remaining 3 people, who managed to keep them at bay while the one guy got back behind friendly lines.

Mixes impersonal large scale battles with missions that make you care about the individual soldier. Fully destructible terrain allows clever tactics.

The mission ends with you rescuing some prisoners, and attempting to escape the town before it is overrun by german reinforcements, not an easy task. However I managed to keep those 4 people, along with the rescued prisoners, alive for the rest of the mission, completing the majority of it with them, making me really care about keeping them alive. Either way it just shows how the undercomplicating games can be detrimental to their fun. This mission took me almost an hour and a half to complete, and it was only around the 5th in the game. Now considering I completed the first 4 missions of C&C 4 in about 30 minutes, I think that says something about what is happening to the franchise.

Either way, I’m going to attempt to continue playing C&C4 for a while to give it a chance, simply because I want to know what happens at the end of the series, but I don’t hold high hopes.