Ben Richardson

"Cell" out

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction hews to dogma -- and limps to a conclusion

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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction

(Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal) PC, Xbox360Read more »

A roar from underground

The Missing Link unites nomads to forge metal connections beyond scenes

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arts@sfbg.com

MUSIC When asked if it's a good time in history to be in a sludgy, uncompromising heavy metal band, High on Fire's Matt Pike stifles a chuckle: "It is for me, man!" Reached by phone in Los Angeles as he prepares for a show at the El Rey Theatre, Pike is far from loquacious, but clearly enjoying the arrival of hard-earned, well-deserved success. His band, a thunderous, heavily-distorted power trio, bastard son of St. Vitus and Slayer, just signed on for a string of European dates opening for Metallica.Read more »

Pentamiligrams: Pentagram deliver the wrong dosage of rock

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Between the pre-salers and the at-the-door buyers, Pentagram fans shelled out around $20 each for the DNA Lounge show Wed/24. Though the complications of the band's discography could fill the pages of a sizable book, suffice to say that they are not promoting a new album -- the concert-goers in attendance were universally excited for a healthy portion of Pentagram classics (especially those diehards who saw July 2009's command performance, also at the DNA).

The set that followed was a sham. It started auspiciously with “Forever My Queen” and “Review Your Choices” -- two of the favorites that everyone expected. Then singer Bobby Liebling, 56-year-old butt poured into turquoise skinny jeans, reached for his harmonica.

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From Russia with ... mutants?

Metro: 2033 is a little rough around the edges, but still impressive and haunting

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Metro: 2033

(4A Games, THQ); Xbox360, PCRead more »

Five stars for the doom metal miracles of Pentagram

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Given Pentagram singer Bobby Liebling's gargantuan drug intake over the last forty years, the fact that the diminutive, goggle-eyed rocker continues to croon cult doom metal hits onstage -- Pentagram will be at DNA Lounge on Wed/24 -- is nothing short of a miracle. Read more »

Bay Area black metal: Ludicra's gripping new "Tenant"

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It's hard to believe, but black metal is around 20 years old. During its second decade, the music has been gradually subsumed into the metal mainstream, cannibalized, recombined, and reinvented. Pulled in one direction by the commercialization of bands like Dimmu Borgir, and in the other direction by the hermetic inaccessibility of solo studio acts like San Francisco's Leviathan, fans and metal taxonomers have circled the wagons around arbitrary criteria, judging bands on whether or not they use a keyboard, or whether or not they're from Scandinavia.

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Riff evangelists

Shrinebuilder create a New Testament for the electric church

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arts@sfbg.com

MUSIC "I felt pretty much the day Wino called me up that it was a really important, really essential thing." Speaking by phone from Los Angeles, Shrinebuilder bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros makes the founding of his new band seem inevitable, like some sort of astronomical event. "Wino" is the nom de rock preferred by legendary guitarist/vocalist Scott Weinrich, cofounder of a new collaboration between musical luminaries that also includes guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly and drummer/vocalist Dale Crover. Read more »

High on Fire's latest is divine

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Wielding his custom-made nine-string axe, churning out tone so thick it could flaunt hot pants in a rap video, and crafting an ever-expanding arsenal of neck-snapping riffage, High on Fire guitarist Matt Pike has done it again.

His playing on the Oakland trio's new album, Snakes for the Divine (Koch Records), surmounts a new, fiery height. That the things he already did well (effortless, legato hammer-ons, heavy-handed, scything chords) are done better is hardly surprising – it's the expanding versatility of the snaggle-toothed shredder's songwriting and technique that impresses, along with his ever-improving vocals. Though Pike's work in Sleep will inevitably serve as a preamble, it is likely that the virtuosity and creativity of his High on Fire output will reverberate longer, and heavier, in posterity.

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Nothing's shocking

Gamer: Once more into those gorgeous ruins for BioShock 2 -- but can it live up to the original?

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BioShock 2

(2K Games/Digital Extremes/Arkane Studios); Xbox360, PS3, PCRead more »

Galaxy quest

Moral quandaries and rhetorical pickles in Mass Effect 2

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MASS EFFECT 2

(Bioware/Electronic Arts) PC, Xbox360

GAMER It took a piece of state-of-the-art hardware and a team of abundantly talented animators and programmers to get me back to the gaming basics. I'd assumed control of Commander Shepard, hero of Mass Effect 2, and I needed to weigh my many options; making the wrong choice would have disastrous consequences. As the Xbox hummed and guzzled power from across the room, the back of a takeout menu became its newest pen-and-paper peripheral — a list of pros and cons.Read more »