Jonathan Hill Dot EU

A Soapbox for Uninformed Opinions

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Darkspace Darkspace III I Review

General Information:

Artist: Darkspace
Album: Darkspace III I
Genre(s): Ambient, Heavy Metal
Subgenres(s): Black Metal, Dark Ambient
Released: 2014
Length: 64 minutes
Language(s): N/A
Label(s): Avantgarde Music

Track List:

01. Dark 4.18
02. Dark 4.19
03. Dark 4.20

Dark Space Dark Space III I Cover

Dark Space Dark Space III I Cover

Darkspace Darkspace III I Review

Darkspace III I is the fourth album by Swiss black metallers Darkspace. Aside from every album having similar cover art work and following the same numerical sequence for song titles, they also repeat the same challenging run time with overly long songs blended together by using dark ambient segments. On the surface this description makes Darkspace sound as though they’re following the same rigid pattern as their older output, which begs the question of what’s new?

Perhaps the most obvious change is in the recording quality because while Darkspace still insist on overloading the listener on high-density distortion, it doesn’t bare the same intensity of their earlier output and with Dark 4.19, their sound is refined to a significantly more accessible style that relies on simple and repetitive guitar riffs between the prevalent buzz-saw guitar and muffled blasting drum sections that can often go on for minutes at a time, which Dark 4.18 will acquaint you with soon enough.

All three band members are credited for vocal duties but this is by far the most irrelevant part of the album because not only are they so sparsely arranged throughout these monstrously long songs, they are also completely unintelligible and buried under a mountain of distortion so it’s impossible to make anything of them. The only exception to this is the use of a small sample from the film 2010: The Year We Make Contact on Dark 4.20

It’s also worth noting that this album is effectively a singular song broken down into three parts which are then stitched back together through the use of dark ambiance. In spite of the ambition and overall length of Darkspace III I, it would be a far cry to call this progressive metal due to the sheer repetition (if nothing else) and if it was to be cut down then you could easily have an album at half the length and twice the replay value.

In short it’s best to say that this is business as usual for Darkspace. Existing fans will probably be delighted by it and for everyone else it’s going to be a question of being able to put time aside to listen to it uninterrupted.

Performers:

Zorgh: Bass, vocals
Zhaaral: Guitar, vocals
Worth: Guitar, vocals

External Links:

Darkspace Homepage
Darkspace on Wikipedia
Darkspace III I on Wikipedia

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Napalm Death Smear Campaign Limited Edition Review

General Information:

Artist: Napalm Death
Album: Smear Campaign (Limited Edition)
Genre(s): Rock
Subgenres(s): Grindcore
Released: 2016
Length: 54 minutes (including bonus tracks)
Language(s): English
Label(s): Century Media

Track List:

01. Weltschmerz
02. Sink Fast, Let Go
03. Fatalist
04. Puritanical Punishment Beating
05. When All is Said and Done
06. Freedom is the Wage of Sin
07. In Deference
08. Short-Lived
09. Identity Crisis
10. Shattered Existence
11. Eyes Right Out
12. Call That an Option? (Bonus Track)
13. Warped Beyond Logic
14. Rabid Wolves (For Christ)
15. Deaf and Dumbstruck (Intelligent Design)
16. Persona Non Grata
17. Smear Campaign
18. Atheist Runt (Bonus Track)

Napalm Death Smear Campaign Limited Edition Cover

Napalm Death Smear Campaign Limited Edition Cover

Napalm Death Smear Campaign Limited Edition Review

Smear Campaign is the twelfth studio album by British grindcore pioneers Napalm Death. While many of their albums from the 1990s to the first half of the 2000s walk the line between death metal and grindcore, the punkish approach to song-writing pushes Smear Campaign further towards the grindcore camp this time around.

Despite the overtly chaotic nature of Smear Campaign, the music is relatively straightforward with the raw intensity coming from the self-described blast beat terrorism drumming of Danny Herrera and the combined guttural performances of lead vocalist Mark “Barney” Greenway and bassist/backing vocalist Shane Embury while Mitch Harris provides feral high pitched shrieks for contrast.

For this reason alone the lyrics are largely undecipherable without having a written copy in front of you for reference. In some ways this is quite a shame because Napalm Death brings a much needed intellectual counter balance to extreme music lyrics which offset the staple diet of guts, gore and cartoonish bellyaching about the woes of the world. Instead they deliver sharp and direct criticism of religion and society, the main themes of Smear Campaign, without the tired and overused approach of most other bands that tackle the subject.

Early on the band addresses the philosophical concept of fatalism, on the song Fatalist no less, to proclaim that “existing becomes a prison where self-discovery’s forbidden”. Since Fatalism is the belief that all actions are predetermined (fated to happen) then there’s no control or changing of any unfolding events. It is then concluded at the end of the song that “any fool starting afresh would surely ditch this/after two-thousand years of schism/only irreligious hearts can do the saving” so as to offer a solution in saying that a new, non-religious train of thought must take hold within society to make progress for the betterment of everyone instead of clinging on to ideologies that were developed thousands of years ago and don’t necessarily apply to modern life.

The theme of societal progress and anti-religion is reinforced with the chorus to When All is Said and Done, which proclaims that “when all is said and done/heaven lies in my heart/no slave to beliefs that propagate pain/when all is said and done/heaven lies in our hearts/this life is a gift to be lived and loved” to reject ideologies that harm people and strip away the value of life itself.

Along with the critical lyrics comes an added sense of melody and experimentation in some instances because, after all, there is only so far you can push outright aggression before you repeat yourself or begin to stagnate. Some notable moments include the industrial influenced introductory song, Weltschmerz, which includes a wordless vocal contribution from Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering), who also performs the monotonous spoken word piece on In Deference. On paper this comes across as an odd pairing but it is probably the only way that her voice could fit into this kind of music and the end results are effective in blending her voice to the cacophony around her without coming across as forced experiment for the sake of it.

Smear Campaign closes with a 3 part mini-epic that will easily catch many fans off guard. Persona Non Grata is the first part and sees Napalm Death using measured aggression to play off against slower moments with growled vocals performed in a melodic fashion that will make you think that the band are about to burst into clean singing at any second. Sludge metal is then embraced for the miniature title track along with the more melodic singing style that turns into a sort of echo-laden chant before fading out and concluding the album on the standard edition.

On the limited edition this then leads into the second bonus track and third part of the mini-epic, Atheist Runt, which is the slowest and longest song on the album at nearly 7 minutes long. This will prove to be quite a test for some fans due to the slow nature of it and yet it is by far one of the most rewarding moments of the whole album if you appreciate the bands decision to branch out and do something a bit different.

Underneath what will sound like the utter chaos of a battlefield to most people, Napalm Death have artfully fused thoughtful lyrical content and a bold experimental edge into their frantic grindcore blueprint to prove that they are as innovative on Smear Campaign as they were at their inception.

Performers:

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Shouting, Screaming, Swans, Sermons (Lead vocals, lyrics on 1-4, 6-9 and 11-6)
Shane Embury: Four Strings of the Apocalypse, NY Aggro Lung Assault (Bass, backing vocals, lyrics on 5 and 10)
Mitch Harris: Shredding, Grinding, Subliming Noise, Shrill Cries (Guitar, backing vocals)
Danny Herrera: Blast Beat Terrorism (Drums)
Anneke van Giersbergen: Additional vocals (1 and 7)

External Links:

Napalm Death Homepage
Napalm Death on Wikipedia
Smear Campaign on Wikipedia

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Easy Star All-Stars Until That Day Review

General Information:

Artist: Easy Star All-Stars
Album: Until That Day
Genre(s): Reggae
Subgenres(s): N/A
Released: 2008
Length: 25 minutes
Language(s): English
Label(s): Easy Star Records

Track List:

01. Got to Get Away
02. Bed of Rose
03. Like the Stars
04. Until That Day
05. The Finest
06. Dubbing Up the Walls

Easy Star All-Stars Until That Day Cover

Easy Star All-Stars Until That Day Cover

Easy Star All-Stars Until That Day Review

Until That Day is the third release by reggae collective Easy Star All-Stars. Following the success of their first two albums, reggae and dub interpretations of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon (Dub Side of the Moon) and Radiohead’s Ok Computer (Radiodread), Easy Star All-Stars released an EP of original material.

The first thing that you will notice when listening to Until That Day is the number of distinctly different vocalists that appear on this 25 minute EP. They range from the smooth vocal melodies of Junior Jazz on Got to Get Away and Tamar-kali on Like the Stars to the frantic “WAAAH” cries and rowdy vocal delivery of Menny More on Bed of Rose and The Finest as well as Until That Day, which shows him in a more restrained role.

These conflicting styles, while well executed, are the biggest dividing line on the EP because some of them hardly sound like they belong on the same release. However, being an EP as well as the first body of original work from Easy Star All-Stars, it could be seen that the intention is to show off a variety of styles to avoid being pigeon-holed one way or the other following their successful reworking of two famous albums.

With the first song, Got to Get Away, the focus is placed on vocalist Junior Jazz and his lyrics which deal with stress and enduring it through the Rastafari faith (they’re fighting everything I do/but with the help of Jah I’m going through). The relaxed nature of the song combined with the positive lyrics make for a welcoming introduction to the EP whereas Bed of Rose quickly shakes things up with an alarm-like brass section accompanied by the frantic “WAAAH” cries of Menny More, which are matched by the choppy drum fills near the end of the song to shake up the pace early on.

Rastafari themes return more extensively on the titular song courtesy of Ras I Ray and this could alienate some listeners who are not familiar with the religion but the infectious nature of the song will win over many listeners regardless of the lyrics because the lively brass arrangement proves to be the single biggest earworm on the EP.

The final song, Dubbing Up the Walls, is a dub remix of their Climbing Up the Walls cover from the aforementioned Radiodread album. Starting out with a slow and ominous brass bellow, this version places a much bigger emphasis on mood by making liberal uses of percussive echoes and low, unassuming bass playing to go along side Tamar-kali’s disembodied voice which sits in between the other instruments instead of on top of them as heard on Like the Stars.

The only real divisive element found on Until That Day will be determined the listeners own preference in singers and to a lesser extent some of the lyrical content. However the well-arranged brass instrumentation littered throughout the EP, along with the overall positive message put forward, will most likely win over new listeners.

Performers:

Jenny Hill: Sax, flute
Ras I Ray: Bass, lead vocals (track 4), backing vocals
Junior Jazz: Guitar, lead vocals (track 1), backing vocals
Ivan Katz: Drums, percussion
Jeremy Mage: Keyboards, programming (track 5)
Menny More: Lead vocals (tracks 2 and 5), DJ vocals (track 4)
Buford O’Sullivan: Trombone
Tamar-kali: Lead vocals, (tracks 3 and 6), backing vocals
Pam Fleming: Trumpet (track 5)
Victor Axelrod (Ticklah): Organ (track 6)
Michael Goldwasser: Guitar, percussion (track 6)
Victor Rice: Bass (track 6)

External Links:

Easy Star All-Stars Homepage
Easy Star All-Stars on Wikipedia
Until That Day on Wikipedia

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Re-evaluating the Seller Protection Policy on Ebay

I work for a business that, like many others, has an Ebay shop and recently there have been 2 cases which have been unfairly ruled in the buyer’s favour when Ebay has intervened. It has become apparent that certain aspects of the Seller Protection policy need to be re-evaluated to ensure that the policy lives up to its name.

What Happened?

In the first instance a buyer opened a case in the resolution centre on Saturday 09/04/16 to claim that they had not yet received their order. On Monday 09/05/16, when we opened for business again, we replied immediately to inform the buyer that their order would arrive in 3-5 working days because they did not opt for the first class option at the point of purchase.

Many Ebay sellers will be familiar with this sort of impatient query, which is sometimes escalated to the resolution centre without reading the delivery/dispatch information or trying to open a dialogue through the messaging system to clarify the situation. While the buyer should read the listing information properly, Ebay do not help the situation by including their own mandatory estimates which almost always fail to accurately reflect the shipping options.

The buyer did not reply to our message for an entire 4 weeks to the day until Sunday 07/05/16 when they simply said “still haven’t received my item.” The buyer immediately escalated this with Ebay, who issued the buyer a full refund within 30 minutes while failing to acknowledge that the buyer did not engage us in a dialogue to resolve the alleged problem, which is the entire point of the resolution centre.

When a staff member phone up to enquire about this, they were only told that they should have sent another message. This failed to address the issue at hand as well as the blatant flaw in their system because apparently it is up to the seller to constantly send messages to the buyer and check every case among the thousands of orders and emails received each month. This defeats the entire point of the system and while we were told that this would be looked into, we have not seen or heard of any action been taken to rectify the problem.

This clearly demonstrates a major flaw in Ebay’s seller protection policy because it allows dishonest buyers to easily take advantage of the resolution centre without having to participate in it, despite them initiating the case, which ultimately lets them receive goods without having to pay for them.

What Can Be Done?

Both the buyer and seller should be given a maximum of 3 working days to respond to the last message sent and all cases should be resolved in no more than 14 days instead of the unreasonably long 45-day limit. If a buyer is capable of opening a case then they are also capable of engaging the seller in the dialogue that they initiated to resolve the problem within a reasonable amount of time.

Ebay needs to list accurate delivery estimates as per the couriers own quote or list nothing at all. This will reduce the number of queries and cases that appear after 2 days of an order being dispatched because it currently gives many buyers the impression that they can get a first class service without paying for it.

The Shortcomings of Ebay’s Return Procedure

The second case relates to Ebay’s returns procedure, which allows buyers to safely return an order to the buyer while giving both parties access to the same tracking information.

This system works for full refunds but falls apart when only a partial refund needs to be issued. In our case the buyer ordered x2 pairs of the same part and returned both of them because they ordered the wrong size. Only one pair was returned in good condition so a partial refund was issued directly through Paypal because the returns system only lets you refund a whole order; you cannot do partial refunds in it.

We submitted photographic evidence of the damaged pair and asked Ebay to intervene and look at said evidence so that they could close the case without us having to issue the buyer a full refund. We are not responsible for what any buyer does with a part once they unpackaged it, nor are we responsible for how they package it when returning it to us. For this reason alone a seller should not be penalised for something that is entirely out of their control.

There is no quality control variable in the current system. This means that a buyer could potentially return hundreds of pounds’ worth of stock that they have damaged (but was sent and delivered in good condition) and then the buyer can reclaim all of their money which leaves the seller out of pocket for something that is entirely out of their control.

Ebay responded to our case within 30 minutes and issued the buyer a full refund without contacting us to give a reason for this decision in spite of the evidence provided.

The purpose of the resolution centre is for the buyer and seller to discuss the problem and work towards a reasonable conclusion and understanding of the problem. In both instances written about here, Ebay has not adhered to their own seller protection policy all while ignoring the evidence presented. They have supported the buyer’s lack of engagement which only proves that under the current system there is no real seller protection.

A New and Balanced System

Ebay needs to implement a new system that will allow the seller to upload photographic evidence of any damage, wrong parts or wrong quantities returned by the buyer as standard. Any conversations conducted through the Ebay messaging system or emails should also be available as evidence that Ebay will take the time to investigate. This will create a more balanced system which will allow for returns to be dealt with in a more effective and fair manner when a customer does not follow the rules that are set out for both parties.