Ben Richardson

Clutch

Moving back toward the muscular guitar rock that comprised its definitive mid-1990s output
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PREVIEW To survive two decades in the music business, a band must learn to tolerate change. Clutch has prospered by embracing it. Since its beginnings as a shotgun marriage between East Coast hardcore and Southern rock, the Maryland four-piece has constantly retooled its elastic, blues-metal sound. Read more »

Who ya gonna call?

The jokes are slinking back into video games. Yep, it's Ghostbusters: The Video Game
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Ghostbusters: The Video Game

(Atari/Sony Computer Entertainment/Terminal Reality)

XBOX360, PS3, PC, Wii, PS2, Nintendo DS

GAMER Before survival horror, pwnage, and musclebound men cursing at each other in 1080p, video games were pretty funny. The mid-'90s saw a slew of comedic adventure classics, released when low computing power made witty writing more valuable than dynamically plasma-rifled gobbets of viscera. Now, it seems, the jokes are slinking back. Read more »

Summer Slaughter Tour

Throw in three or four majority whips with reliable fanbases and good reputations, and you've got yourself a Congress of carnage
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PREVIEW Summer metal tours, notably Ozzfest, operate like feudal hierarchies. As night descends and the stages get bigger, lesser known vassals doing fealty in the parking lot give way to the landed headbanger aristocracy, who in turn cede the stage to some anointed monarch of metal.

In recent years, package deals like Summer Slaughter have taken a more republican approach, recruiting bands of middling stature to represent a vast array of black-hoodied constituents. Read more »

Arm race

Bionic Commando, the first in an ever-expanding series of big-budget 8-bit retreads
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Bionic Commando

(GRIN/Capcom; PC, XBOX 360, PS3)

GAMER Reading faithfully from Hollywood's remake-happy script, the game industry has learned to cannibalize its history. Bionic Commando is the first in an ever-expanding series of big-budget 8-bit retreads; Splatterhouse (Namco Bandai) is due out later this year, and more are sure to follow.

Bionic Commando slots you into the futuristic combat boots of Nathan Spencer, voiced ably if bombastically by Faith No More's Mike Patton. Read more »

Pagan fest

Pirates, polka, and plundering by not-so-gentle folk
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Pre-Christian religion is all the rage in metal these days, and the second of two high-profile "Pagan" tours is rolling into town, along with Thor, Hecate, and various henges, stony or otherwise. Pagan Fest 2009 is headlined by the Finnish folk-metal outfit Korpiklaani, a group that puts the polka back into heavy music's thrashing "polka beats," levying a relentless kick-snare attack with traditional Finnish melodies. Read more »

Metal militia

Metallica' Guitar Hero -- rendered right down to the mole on Kirk Hammett's face
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Guitar Hero: Metallica

(Neversoft, Xbox 360, PS3; Budcat Creations, Wii, PS2)

GAMER Metallica were recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which they surely had in mind while writing their 1983 debut album Kill 'Em All (Megaforce). Back in the spotlight and riding high on the release of 2008's Death Magnetic (Warner Bros), which many have optimistically heralded as a return to form, the Bay Area's most famous thrash band returned to store shelves this spring with Guitar Hero: Metallica. Read more »

Astral peaks

More is more is more in the elemental metal of Mastodon -- plus some surprising Bay Area connections
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

If not for High on Fire, Mastodon might never have existed. The flame-bonging Oakland trio swung through Atlanta in 1999, playing what was presumably an eardrum-destroying gig in the basement of local musician Brent Hinds. At the show, Hinds and his friend, bassist Troy Sanders, met drummer Brann Dailor and guitarist Bill Kelliher, who had both recently arrived from Rochester, N.Y. Read more »

Undead again

Cooperation's the name of the game in Resident Evil 5
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Resident Evil 5

(Capcom; Xbox 360, PS3)

GAMER With sales hovering around the 35 million mark, Capcom's Resident Evil series has become less of a cash cow and more of a cash elephant. Read more »

Meaner streets

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned -- who cares about psychological realism?
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Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned

(Rockstar North; Xbox 360)

GAMER Ever since the "next-gen" consoles shipped with capacious hard-drives and easy access to the broadband interwebs, gamers have been paying the price. Read more »

"Defiance"

If the Third Reich had declared war on central casting, the Bielskis would have been screwed
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REVIEW A serious Holocaust movie like Edward Zwick's Defiance has to start with archival footage. See, there's Hitler, shouting in German. Say! Where did Zwick get shots of the Wehrmacht plundering the Bielski farm in Belarus? Oh, it's fading into color — guess he filmed them himself. After the German invasion of Russia, the Bielski brothers took refuge in a nearby forest. They harassed Hitler's supply line, provided shelter to fellow Jews, and generally defied things (Nazis, collaborators, Russians, each other). Read more »