Back to free

Oh hey, look at me blogging at wordpress.com again. I’ve been really lax at this writing lark in recent years, and while I really liked having my own hosted blog I could not justify the expense; especially as my hosts thought it acceptable to *triple* the annual fee.

They clearly didn’t want mostly inactive personal bloggers clogging up their servers. Oh well.

My plan is to restart my blog somewhere afresh, using some kind of JAMStack technology. I’ve been meaning to do this for a few years, and while I’m not the greatest at developing code I think this would be a cool activity for me to have a go at.

If it’s a total disaster I’ve always got this blog.

In the meantime here’s an excellent video by Mnozil Brass

Mnozil Brass

AMG single spin reviews – week 3

It should be no surprise to anyone that I am miles behind with these reviews. I have somehow managed to keep up with the listening, but actually writing down what I thought of each one is lagging behind.

With this in mind I am going to have to restructure the reviews. I do not have the time or inclination to write a considered review for each album, so I am going to change to a less structured approach. I’ll be writing about each album a little bit, but in a normal paragraphed blog style. It would have been nice to give every album its own little segment, but my innate procrastination will not allow it.

So, here we go for week three. These are for albums reviewed between the 15th and 21st of January – excluding the ‘Things You Might Have Missed’ entries.

We are kicking off with one of those anonymous black metal bands that seem to be popular in certain circles: CMPT – Krv i Pepeo. I’ll just say that this fits squarely in the ‘not for me’ category, like a lot of black metal. I don’t remember much about it. It’s a similar story for Verbum – Exhortation to the Impure: it didn’t leave much of an impression, and while I preferred it to CMPT I won’t be going back to listen to its Chilean Death Doom stylings again.

Bullet Ride album cover
Bullet Ride – At the Gates of Hell

I didn’t like the blackened doom of Charnel Altar – Abatement of the Sun. I can usually find something to interest me in most releases, but I was left cold on this. Sorry. Thankfully the next album provided some decent tunes: Bullet Ride – At the Gates of Hell. Some of the commenters at AMG did not like the vocalist, but I really enjoyed her characterful wailings. Not perfect by any means, but fun! They hit pretty much every metal cliché going, but do so in an entertaining way. Nice!

Trenches album cover
Trenches – Reckoner

I should have liked Trenches – Reckoner, but I didn’t. Maybe I was having a bad day or something, but this just skipped past in my playlist without leaving much of an impression. This is a shame, because on paper they should be in prime Dave territory, especially as Isis and Neurosis were mentioned in the review. Oh well. Conversely I really enjoyed Autumn’s Child – Zenith, which harks back to the 80s for its AOR-fest of cheesy tunes. It’s not going to win any awards, but I found plenty to enjoy. Sometimes you just need something a bit disposable.

I also found lots to like with the proggy Toundra – Hex. An instrumental post-metal album that included plenty of memorable moments, and exceptional musicianship. I got a few good bits out of Worm Shepherd – Ritual Hymns. This was a bit nuts for me, but while the extremity of the music was a bit overwhelming, I did enjoy parts. It had plenty of style and at least was memorable.

Some fun was had with Greek death metal band Abyssus – Death Revival. I need some additional style to go with death metal, and while this band don’t stray too far from the core they were still rather decent. On the other hand Druid Lord – Relics of the Dead was… interesting, if not actually good. I generally like death doom and there are some monstrous riffs here. I just wish the songs were a bit more memorable.

I may have over-used the word ‘memorable’ so far. Oh no.

Lastera cover
Lastera – From The Ashes

Power metal has a bit of a bad reputation, but I often find myself loving it – like I have with Lastera – From the Ashes. This is easily my favourite album of the week, if not the year so far. Brilliant stuff from a band I was previously unaware of. I’ll be revisiting this one a few times for sure. It’s a shame I won’t be for Oar – The Blood You Crave. Once again the post-metal tag – something I usually consistently like – fails to find favour. It’s not bad at all, but with so many bands to listen to this year I couldn’t whip up that much enthusiasm for this.

Oooh, getting nearly at the end of the week. Let’s see what’s left. Ashes of Ares – Emperors and Fools was a bit of a disappointment. It was pretty decent, but somehow managed to underachieve. The band are great and have an exceptional vocalist, and yet I couldn’t bring myself to fully engage with their material. A near miss, though.

Oh, that’s it! The end of week 3, and a clear win for the awesome Lastera.

AMG single spin reviews – week 2

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I am miles behind my plans to listen to each new album review on Angry Metal Guy, and even further behind on actually writing about it. I could claim that I’ve been busy with work, but nobody would believe that. Still, let’s plod on. What delights have I already listened to in week 2: 8th to the 14th of January 2022.

Wombbath album cover
Wombbath – Agma

Wombbath – Agma

We start the week off with a pretty decent death metal album. I generally need something added to death metal for me to properly enjoy it, and while much of this album is standard swedeath, there are elements that make it far more interesting. There are folky bits, some violins, and loads of big meaty thrashy riffs.

There’s plenty of good tracks to get your teeth into, but at 70 minutes it is way too long. I like it, but there are too many samey songs and it doesn’t quite stand out enough for me to be buying the t-shirt. Certainly an album that might be getting some replays this year, though.

[AMG review]


Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend

Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend

More death metal? Sure, but this demonstrates the variety in that genre – this hits similar inspirational touchpoints to the Wombbath album but sounds quite different to my ears. In Chaos Ascend has a modern-sounding production that sounds almost live. You can hear quite a lot of natural instrument noises, something that often gets hidden during mixing – I like this a lot!

The vocals are raspy and really nasty, while somehow maintaining a melodic edge. The songs are varied, hooky and show hints of all kinds of bands; from Morbid Angel to Pantera. There’s a lot to enjoy and even after one spin of this I can tell that Necrophagous have a great chance of making my year-end list. If I make one, which isn’t a given.

Cracking!

[AMG review]


Nihility – Beyond Human Concepts

Nihility – Beyond Human Concepts

Oh, another death metal band, this time from Portugal. This decent slab of death comes with a side-helping of black metal too. I often enjoy mixing black metal with other genres, while not really getting into bands that start off with the black and end up elsewhere. I don’t know, I’m weird.

Either way, this is pretty good death without really doing much new. Solid and enjoyable, and that’s pretty much all I can say about it after one spin. It’s not quite as memorable as the Necrophagous or Wombbath, but left me happy to play it some more.

[AMG Review]


Avskräde – Det stora tunga sjuka

Avskräde – Det stora tunga sjuka

Well, that’s easy for you to say. It should be fairly obvious from the album cover that this is some kind of black metal. It’s an enthusiastic, if flawed, album that revisits the early days of black metal. It’s not trying to be anything fancy, just black all the time.

It starts off pretty well, but I soon found myself wondering if I’d accidentally just left the first song on repeat or something. There’s little to distinguish one song from another, and while there’s certainly some good grooves going on I was pretty glad that this album is quite short.

The song endings are pretty bad mostly, with some awful fade-outs where some kind of resolution would have been good. This is a shame, because you can hear a good hint of quality in there. Hopefully future albums will have a bit more variety.
[AMG review]


Mizmor – Wit’s End

Mizmor – Wit’s End

I saw the (incredible) album art for this and assumed I was going to get some prog metal or something. What I did get was something rather strange – a mix of styles outside my usual playlists.

There are only two tracks, both monstrous in their own way. The first is packed full of justifiably angry lyrics and plodding doom death. There’s a hint of Neurosis I think, and strong post-metal hints amongst the sludgy doom and raging vocals. I really liked this track, but not so much the second one which might well have been written and performed by a different artist. It’s largely ambient, and while it’s enjoyable in itself I’m not sure I could call it a ‘song’.

This was definitely the most intriguing album so far this year. I just wish I could like it a bit more.

[AMG review]


Torii – Torii

Torii – Torii

Ooooh, something doomy. I’m partial to acts that deliver massive, crushing riffs at a glacial pace and there are parts of this that deliver just that. There’s a mix of post-metal, doom and death in here, and while it’s not always great there’s some terrific elements dotted around.

I’m glad that it’s not all slow, grave-bothering doom. There’s enough variety to maintain interest throughout, even with the obligatory incomprehensible vocals growling away buried in the mix.

The whole album could certainly sound better, but pretty good stuff.

[AMG review]


Aethereus – Leiden

Aethereus – Leiden

Hey, now here’s something interesting. 2021 was a pretty good year for technical death, and it’s good to see more of that this year. Aethereus deliver the insanity a bit differently though, with the addition of some dissonant elements.

I generally find disso-death hard work. I like a tune – hooks are necessary for me to enjoy music – and some disso-death can be pretty dense. If an album requires me to put in some effort to figure out what’s going on, well, that’s a hard no from me. There are plenty of other acts I can listen to.

Aethereus, somehow, deliver all of the tech death and dissonance you can handle, while also making tuneful songs. This is quite a revelation for me. I found some elements of this album harder to get into than others, but the bits I enjoyed I loved. Final song Upon Infinite Seas is an epic disso-tech-death song that somehow ends up with an absolutely delicious chorus. It’s one of the best songs I’ve heard in ages. I’m certainly going to revisit this one quite a bit.

[AMG review]


Wolfbastard – Hammer the Bastards

Wolfbastard – Hammer the Bastards

I’m starting to regret the decision to listen to all of these albums reviewed at Angry Metal Guy. Not because they’re bad (I generally find something I like in everything), but because there are so many of them! I’m not getting to dwell on any artist, and that is a shame in a way.

I’d quite like to dwell on these bastards. It is not subtle, but huge amounts of fun. It’s labelled as ‘crusty black metal’, which isn’t a category I’d normally be flicking through on the shelves at HMV. I’m hearing a lot of punk in this; lovely, loud, obnoxious punk.

It’s quite big, if not clever. It doesn’t need to be though. Brilliant!

[AMG review]


King Bastard – It Came From the Void

King Bastard – It Came From the Void

More bastards. You’d think this would be more crusty black metal with that moniker, but no – this is some spicy psychedelic stoner doom, or something like that.

They are a bit obsessed with Aliens (the film) and space in general. Huge riffs abound, interspersed with some lovely, spacey moments. Vocals are death-adjacent at times, but the songs contain quite a bit of weird variety, and visit lots of memorable hooks.

It can be a little too weird at times, maybe, but a fun listen nonetheless.

[AMG review]


Ereb Altor – Vargtimman

Ereb Altor – Vargtimman

Crikey, still going on week 2? There were a lot of reviews this week. At least we are finishing on something really good.

Ereb Altor are, apparently, inspired by Bathory. I never got on with Bathory in my youth. I’m not sure why, but they didn’t appeal to me then. I was very much into Anthrax, Metallica and the usual Thrash suspects back then. I kind of wish I’d given them more attention, as this album is great!

There are loads of great tunes delivered in suitably Viking metal stylings. I enjoyed this quite a bit more than Steel in the review, but then I do have quite simple tastes.

[AMG review]

That’s it for week 2! I love the reviews over at Angry Metal Guy and have found loads of new bands from there over the years. Let’s hope I can keep up!

AMG single spin reviews – week 1

You know how some people make sensible, optimistic new year’s resolutions that might, in some little way, improve themselves? Well, I’ve tried those, and while they’re an interesting way to prompt eating more healthily, or take up additional physical exercise, they’re often forgotten about by the end of the first week of January.

Additionally, I do think about self-improvement quite a bit. I read about it on twitter and elsewhere, and I agree that I should do something about it. No doubt I’ve blogged about it on here at some point too; I’m too lazy to look up the related posts but I am sure they are there. Somewhere. So, instead of taking up yoga or going vegan I have decided to listen to every album reviewed on Angry Metal Guy this year, and write a little review of each one.

This will, in no way whatsoever, improve my well-being. It is unlikely to help me sleep better, or to even get finished. I’m writing this first post in February because I just cannot get personal projects going on time. Or any project for that matter. It’s a totally useless thing for me to start doing, but these are the sorts of things that get into my brain and poke at my motivational buttons, so here we are.

I’m keen on improving my writing skills, so perhaps there’s some use to it. I’ll also listen to a good few albums I’d have skipped over normally, so maybe I’ll discover a new artist I can fanboy over. Let’s see how it goes. I’m going to review these in review week order rather than release date, so these first few albums will have been reviewed between the 1st and 7th of January. I am not going to include Things You May Have Missed reviews, because Jesus Christ there are a lot of these to listen to anyway and I can live without also listening to stuff catching up from last year.

Anyway, here we go! There are only two to review for the first week.



Wilderun album cover
Wilderun – Epigone

Wilderun – Epigone

Ah, now were are onto something interesting! I really enjoyed Wilderun’s last album Veil of Imagination, and while I wasn’t quite as head-over-heals as AMG himself, I did think it was one of the best releases that year. Wilderun like to cross genre boundaries for fun, and I love their folk-death-prog stylings.

I enjoyed this one too, and while a single spin is never going to do it justice, I can tell that there are going to be plenty of re-visits in the coming weeks and months. Epigone sounds amazing most of the way through – especially in the quieter parts. Vocalist Evan Anderson Berry has a terrific clean voice but can also give the growls some proper menace too, and it is his performance that sets the band above almost everyone else making heavy progressive music. There’s lots to admire, and those missing old Opeth need look no further.

I found myself less enamoured with some of the heavier sections, which don’t quite smack me around the head as much as I’d like. However, overall this is excellent and likely to be one of the best albums of the year. Need more listens!

[AMG review]

30 Days of Tools – Day 3

OK, so after day 2’s rather vague questions we have something a bit more concrete for day 3:

Share how you evaluate a new tool

  • How do you discover all the things you like/dislike about a new tool?

I have two main ways of doing this: by reading the reviews and by giving it a go. The absolutely best way of finding out if a tool is fit for purpose or not is to try it. I sometimes try out new tools during training, like one of the free courses on Test Automation University.

  • What do you rely on to make a reasonable evaluation of a new tool?

I use my own (excellent) judgment obviously (I’ll be using it), but often I can be deterred or encouraged by reviews, or the opinions of my testing peers

  • How do you know you’ve found “the one”?

Results! If it’s too difficult to use or doesn’t give me what I want then it gets uninstalled and/or chucked in the bin.

  • What is the biggest turn-off when evaluating a new tool?

Too many features. If a tool tries to be all things to all testers and has a million menu options then it is going to be a big turn off for me. I much prefer a tool to do one thing, and do it well. For instance, for test management I’ve really liked using Test Rail over more complicated options, because it doesn’t try to be a huge monolithic testing tool. It’s mostly simple to use and integrates nicely with some other tools.

Right, those questions were much better than yesterday’s, and I’ve done two of these challengers in one day. Hurrah!

30 Days of Tools – Day 2

Well, that didn’t last long did it? I’m onto day 2 but I’m already six days behind. I should have predicted that I’d be doing this in my own time rather than in tandem with the challenge, but here we are. At least I’m doing day 2 rather than just mucking about on twitter.

So, what are the questions for today’s challenge?

What makes a tool a testing tool?

  • What’s your definition of a testing tool?

Oh, this is one of those questions. I know this going to sound rather like circular reasoning, but testing tools are tools we use for testing. These can be absolutely anything that we use in our tasks; from Excel to post-it notes, from Postman to Fiddler and that fancy automation tool that we’re all trying out.

I suppose I could whittle this down a bit to only include things that are specifically helpful to testing, but there are so many things that are useful in testing (pen and paper for sketching and mind-mapping, white boards, Excel for keeping tabs on stuff and making charts) where do you stop?

  • How do you know it’s a testing tool?

Or, how do I know if it’s a good testing tool? I’ve used some tools that have been actively harmful to my testing (hello ALM, Jira etc for making everything take so much longer) but they are still, I suppose, testing tools. Let’s just not worry about it, eh? If I use it for testing then it’s a testing tool.

  • What things help you decide if a tool is not a testing tool?

I am unconcerned with these kinds of decisions

Right. Onto day 3 before Halloween?

30 Days of Tools – Day 1

The Ministry of Testing are my go-to place for all things testing. I have been a member there since the beginning – I was around before it emerged from The Software Testing Club – and while I read more than I post it is one of my more important social networks. It is one of those ‘work-adjacent’ places that is hugely supportive of its members, somewhere to get together and talk about all the stuff we are interested in.

It’s not just about the tech stuff. Testing involves a lot of thinking and planning, and the theory behind our craft is something we often talk (and argue) about. There are loads of talks to go to, conferences to attend, and the social media team are great at encouraging discussion around interesting testing topics.

There’s a regular ’30 days of testing’ thing where we spend a month looking at something useful, and I have been absolutely rubbish at joining in. It’s about time I did just that, so it’s just as well that MoT have kicked off October with 30 Days of Tools. I’ve always enjoyed playing with new testing tools, and while I’m no expert on many of these little widgets and applications that make our job easier, it’s a good way for me to learn more. It’s also motivated me to write in this bloody blog for once too.

Day 1 kicks us off in fairly simple fashion with the following questions:

Share your favourite tool and explain why.

  • What tool brings you joy?

I’m not the most excitable person about tooling, but some tools really do make our jobs easier. While ‘joyful’ is a bit of a stretch I really appreciated using Screenpresso for my Windows-based snipping needs. It was by far the best screenshot tool I found back in the day, and while both Microsoft and Apple have upped their game with this type of tooling in recent years I still have a weird kind of affection for it.

I will no doubt think of something else once I hit publish.

  • What’s the one tool you go to that is a pleasure to use and helps you solve problems

Chrome dev tools, no question. If you’re testing something on the web it’s a superb suite of useful tools that enable us to instantly see issues.

  • What tool helps you be a better tester?

Is Twitter a tool? Let’s say it is, yeah? I have learned more about testing from there than anywhere else. It isn’t just an outlet for sweary opinions or somewhere to shout at celebrities: it’s also a great place to collect the best thinkers about testing, and I have followed a huge number of great testers. The discussions there are superb and have fed my feeble brain with any number of ways for me to be a better tester.

I will attempt to do day 2 a bit earlier in the day, but you never know how my Olympic standard procrastination is going to play out

Google Photos Test

WordPress now allows me to use Google Photos as a Featured Image, so this post is just so that I can test that one thing.

You’ll note that I have posted absolutely SOD ALL for around 18 months. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone really, but it’s just how it was. I have no excuse really, and it’s not even important. There’s been plenty going on in my life but I just didn’t feel enthused enough to write it down on here.

Skull
Skull

Maybe I’ll do it more often now? Don’t hold your breath.

Anyway, I wonder if I can insert other images into my posts from Google Photos too?

Dorset is nice

(Yes)

The Colour of Magic: Terry Pratchett

Ruby and I have frequent quality daughter/daddy time on an evening. We both love books and read together when we can. We’ve read all the Harry Potter books, The Hobbit, and loads of other kids’ books and now we have embarked on our biggest book series yet: all of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett.

The idea was to do them in order but we didn’t actually decide this until we’d already read The Last Hero (illustrated edition), and Going Postal (hardback edition). I’ve already read most of the series, so this is going to be a fantastic way of re-reading the whole thing. I’m intending on writing a review after each too, although I think we all know how good I am at keeping to writing projects.

So, the review: let me type some words about this book.

Terry Pratchett’s wife must have thought he was on drugs when he initially thought up the concept of the Discworld. A disc-shaped world travelling through space, supported by four elephants on the back of a gigantic turtle? That’s just a bit on the far side of absurd isn’t it?

It is indeed thoroughly eccentric and very silly, but the storytelling in Pratchett’s books is always grounded in (our) reality. The best of the Discworld novels all have something to say about us, and while The Colour of Magic doesn’t dig quite as far into the human condition as later books it does provide for a very engaging and amusing read.

The Colour of Magic
The Colour of Magic

Rincewind is a failed Magician and the ‘hero’ of our story. He is the ultimate survivor with the knack of always knowing which direction is best for running away. He is joined in the four adventures in this book by Twoflower – a tourist from the other side of the disc – and his sapient (and very grumpy) luggage.

Rincewind and Twoflower find themselves at odds with Fate, who seems inclined to precipitate their deaths. Fate, it turns out, is a bit of an arsehole. This is the thread that leads us through four separate, but linked, tales around the Discworld.

We meet many interesting characters on the way, and are introduced to many a landmark that we know and love from the series. My favourite places in this book are the Broken Drum, the Circumfence and the Wyrmberg. Pratchett’s imagination has gone wild in some of these locations, and while many of the details of Ankh-Morpork are yet to be fleshed out there’s some impressive world-building going on in what is a fairly short fantasy novel.

The action is slick, the jokes come along at a good rate, and this is a really good introduction to the whole series. While you could jump in elsewhere – or even read these books in any order – there’s satisfaction to be gained by reading them in the order they were released. Some of language is a bit fruity for younger readers (‘whore’ is used a few times – plus a description of libido that set of a very uncomfortable conversation with my ten year-old – and a use of ‘piss off’) but Ruby found the whole book to be a fascinating, funny, silly adventure.

The Colour of Magic finishes on a bit of a (literal) cliff-hanger & I have already sourced the next book (The Light Fantastic) from my local librarian – my mate Luke over the road. He’s got all the books, while I seem to have mislaid most of mine. Bring on the next one!

Featured Images

Oh, I wish there was a better (or even any sensible) way of using Flickr content as a featured image on a page or post. I’d just like to be able to connect my Flickr account to WordPress and then be able to see my Flickr photos within my media library so I can add them as either a content in my posts or as a featured image.

Highfields Park
Highfields Park

The latter is a particularly important feature for me: it’s a faff to have to upload a copy of the image I’m already using within my page (as a Flickr embed) just so I can use it as Featured Image. It’d be amazing to just be able to select it directly from my Flickr account.

I’ve tried a few external media plugins but nothing ever appears in my media library like it should. Perhaps I’m doing it wrong? Either way it’s not as easy as it should be.

So, I am going to try using the Featured Image from URL plugin to see if it will automatically add embedded images as a featured image, or if I’ll need to manually add the URL in afterwards.

What I suspect will happen is that the magic processes that enable these features will result in a smaller image being used for both the embed and the featured image. They’ll likely look rubbish.

Let’s see.

<passage of time occurs here>

OK, so it works but only after some trial and error. The plugin cannot see the URL to the actual image from the Flickr embed code because Flickr (and WordPress) hide it. The embed code looks like this:

https://flic.kr/p/2iSyK81

…while I could use a different style of embed code that looks like this:

<a data-flickr-embed="true" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/rutty/<number here>/in/datetaken/" title="Highfields Park"><img src="https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/<number here>_8c15b85df1_b.jpg" width="1024" height="576" alt="Highfields Park"></a><script async src="//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

It’s the URL that ends in *.jpg that I need. I have pasted just that bit in manually into the Featured Image from URL widget and it shows up correctly.

It’s a bit of a faff but workable.