Album review: Mutation III ‘Dark Black’

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At long last the third instalment of Ginger Wildheart’s relentless noise campaign is here, and I can guarantee it will physically blow your mind clean out of your boy. ‘Dark Black’ is as intense, brutal, and face-meltingly loud as I’d hoped it would be, and I had high hopes considering the involvement of Scott Lee Andrews (Exit International, Jaws of Death). The album features a plethora of incredible musicians, including Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend Project), Phil Campbell (Motorhead), Givvi Flynn (The Dowling Poole, The Wildhearts) and Jon Poole (Cardiacs, The Wildhearts).

The influences on this record are sublimely combined; noise, extreme metal and punk fuse together in a glorious conglomeration of chaos. There is barely time to breathe throughout the entirety of it, aside from the six second opening track, a spoken word piece about the monster that is depression. This is a running theme throughout the album, with poignant lyrics creating a landscape of existential anxiety, dread, and frustration. As someone with experience in these matters, I would say that Ginger and crew have done a harrowingly spot-on job of grappling mental health battles into sonic form.

As soon as Authenticity kicks in, the ruthless violence of these sonic battles begin, peppered with addictive hooks and epic choruses which will have you screaming along for days.  The height of the of musical addiction on this album is undoubtedly Irritant, which boasts a terrifically blunt chorus of ‘Fuck off you cunt you are an irritant’. As Andrews himself professed, even the most optimistic person you know would have a hard time stopping themselves from belting along to this mantra. Plus the music video of Ginger and the gang relentlessly spray painting the Mutation logo onto large corporate businesses is hilarious.

Despite the reigning discord, there are brilliant melodies in Dark Black, like satanic interpretations of pop; Skint and Hate push perfectly tuned dynamics through the heaviness. This is what makes me want to listen to this album over and over again. The final track Deterioration will leave any distortion cravings satisfied, its slow pace grinding this shit-storm to a close.

This is certainly a love it or hate it record. The extremes that take place here leave no room for mild opinion, and I’m sure Ginger wanted it that way. Personally, I consider Dark Black to be a musical triumph of 2017 and it is probably my favourite new album of this year so far.

 

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Cookies and Scream

The thing I look forward to most about visiting London, i’m unashamed to say, is not the culture, the night life, or the shopping (although all that stuff is great I guess). No, the best thing about London is the marvellous array of vegan goodies available, just waiting to be consumed by junk food addicts like myself. If you’re looking for full fat, full sugar, fully divine vegan sweet treats, get yourself down to Cookies and Scream this instant. I mean it. Go, go right now.

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The brilliant thing about Cookies and Scream is that is has two locations, a stall in The Market Hall at Camden Lock and the bake house on Holloway Road. I’m sure I must have purchased from the Camden stall before, because as I took that first  mouthful of Cookies’ own peanut putter cookie pie on my visit to the capital last weekend, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia not unlike a resurfacing childhood memory, happy and sweet (hold the bitter).

I wanted to sample everything on offer, but sadly due to the sheer size of the portions (very generous) and my body’s limited ability to regulate all that sugar, I had to settle for sharing two cakes and milkshakes with my friend. We indulged in the ‘Chico’ pie and the ‘Beelzebub’ pie, a rich, chocolatey no-bake mud creation. We also chugged our way though a cookie dough milkshake and a brownie milkshake. After finishing everything, it’s safe to say we were pretty much laying face down on the floor of the cafe in candy comas.

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If you are braver than I and want to sample more that just two cakes, you wont be strapped for choice; they do cookies, brownies, donuts, and more signature pies like Banoffee, Blue Moon, and Donnie Darko (choc mint mousse). They bake fresh every day so it’s best to just turn up and be excited for the surprise ahead. Oh did I mention that while we were stuffing our faces, the staff had picked a fantastic hardcore punk and post-punk playlist for our listening pleasure? I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, with a name like ‘Cookies and Scream’, that this fantastic little bakery draws an alternative and liberal crowd. But it is far from hipster, and the staff are super friendly and will give you recommendations and talk you through any of their bakes.

The portion sizes are well worth the (very reasonable) prices, and well worth a special trip across London to indulge in. Personally I am pining for a branch to open in Nottingham so I can eat it every day. Please, Cookies and Scream, please come to Nottingham I beg you.

130 Holloway Road, London, N7 8JE | Mon-Sat 9-8pm, Sun 11-8pm | T: Highbury and Islington Station | menu changes daily 

January gems to put through your ears

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I am not a person who deals very well with winter. If i’m honest, i’d hibernate all the way through it if I could. I’m cold all the time, wearing a million layers of bulky clothing, and not really paying much attention to how I look on a day to day basis. It’s times like these that accessories are a godsend; if you can’t be bothered to spend time on an fully fledged outfit, just add an interesting twist to plain comfy clothes with statement necklaces or earrings. If you’re more hxc inclined, or just had a slightly rebellious phase as a thirteen year old like I did, flesh tunnels are a great way to have some fun without making too much effort.

I recently purchased four new ones from Custom Plugs, a fantastic online store selling clothing, body jewellery, phone cases and more. They have a brilliant selection of plugs on offer, ranging from simple plastic ones to elaborate golden one inspired by traditional Indian jewellery. Wood, amethyst, opalite, glass, and metal are all used, fitting to a variety of tastes. My own tastes have changed dramatically and instead of looking for inverted crosses on glittery plastic, I now enjoy the more ornate designs made from gold and silver.

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These plugs are all very comfy and the heavier ones, like this steampunk-esque cog themed one, have screw on backs to keep them secure. I also purchased this gorgeous wooden phone case. Many of the designs for the plugs, phone cases, and clothing were designed by popular international tattoo artists, like Eneko EtxebesteLucy O’Connell, Chris Lambert, and more.

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You can visit Custom Plugs to see the awesome stuff on offer, they have both a UK and US shop. I hope you have fun spicing up your winter wardrobe with body jewellery!

Three trans women cartoon characters who could kick your ass

When it comes to the representation of the trans community in fiction, especially cartoons, things tend to get very vague and elusive. There is a lot of speculating. There is a lot of fan theorising and post-production baiting from creators, hints and entendres, but usually there is little solid proof as to the status of a multitude of characters who could be trans. Nearly never do you get a character coming out with an undisputed statement like, “Hi nice to meet you, my name is Stephanie and I’m a trans woman”. I mean, not that trans people go around introducing themselves like this, but you get the drift.

There is a huge, dissatisfying void between canon and fandom that can leave trans people feeling let down, desperate, and pretty fucking pissed. For instance, I have convinced myself that a lot of my favourite male cartoon characters have a secret trans identity and are all in the closet, so that I can identify with them and feel their struggles and triumphs on a more personal level. Will I ever get affirmation of these hopes and dreams? No, probably not. But hold the phone, all is not lost.  Three of my favourite cartoon characters of all time are canon trans women who successfully subvert feminine stereotypes and prove that you don’t have to be an unrealistically dainty flower in order to be a woman. Here I will talk about them in all their ass-kicking, face-punching, soul-reaping glory.

Alice from Superjail!

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Superjail! is an American TV series produced by Augenblick Studios and Titmouse, Inc.  Characterised by its psychedelic shifts in setting and plot and extreme graphic violence, which give the series a TV-MA-V (for graphic violence, including scenes of bloodshed, dismemberment, torture, and extreme cruelty) rating, this is not one for the faint of heart. So it makes sense to feature a trans woman character who could rip you limb from limb if she so desired, right? Alice is the head prison guard of Superjail. She is large, muscular, and brooding. She is the first one on the scene of a fight and does not shy away from sadomasochism. She is also very maternal (coming close to being both a Godmother to a little girl and Foster Mother to a newborn alien) and enjoys makeup, lingerie, and being pampered. Alice is fantastically complex character with very human flaws and desires; the way that her femininity is portrayed is particularly liberating for anyone who believes that women are just as fearless, strong, and hot-headed as men. Despite some aspects of her character coming across as a gag (her male genitalia is always prominent beneath her tight skirt) she never falters in her personal identity as a woman, quite literally stomping the ugly face of transphobia to the ground.

Hunter Gathers from The Venture Bros

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Hunter Gathers, from the iconic Adult Swim series The Venture Bros, is a member of the OSI and mentor to lethal agent and bodyguard Brock Samson. Throughout season one, Hunter is portrayed as a cis man with a penchant for dressing up in female disguises whilst pursuing targets. In season two, they undergo sex-reassignment surgery to become a woman, seemingly for the purposes of an infiltration mission. However, it is blatant that Hunter’s desire to be biologically female runs a lot deeper than this. She…yes, I’m going to go ahead and call her ‘she’ because that’s what she bloody well is… is a badass woman who is sadly trapped by the old-fashioned values and expectations of army life. In season six, after undergoing more surgery to remove her breasts to become the leader of underground organisation Sphinx, she exclaims to her soldiers how much she misses her female body and that there is a woman inside her ‘just screaming to be heard’. Like Alice, Hunter is an advocate for aspects of female life that are not approached in mainstream media because they are considered too ‘unfeminine’. Body hair, dominance, practicality, anger: these are all things that everyday women have and experience, that shouldn’t detract from their status as female. I just hope that in season seven of Venture Bros, Hunter gets the final transition and closure that she deserves.

Grell Sutcliffe from Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji)

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One of these is not like the others, you might think, but this flamboyant shinigami from the manga and anime adaptation of Black Butler actually has a lot in common with the other gals here. Initially introduced as a meek male butler with suicidal tendencies, Grell’s true nature is revealed after she is discovered as the culprit behind the Jack the Ripper murders with co-conspirator Madam Red. Grell has a ruthless fascination with aesthetic beauty, perfection, and the colour red, and believes that substances which reflect that colour, such as blood, can be used to achieve beauty. She is initially portrayed as an antagonist, but her alliance with the series protagonists in somewhat consistent and she never makes the leap to full blown villainy. She does enjoy getting her hands dirty, however, and relishes in fights with protagonist Sebastian Michaelis. Despite being misgendered almost constantly, Grell always refers to herself with female pronouns and metaphors, expressing her desire become Sebastian’s wife and to mother his children. Her melodramatic flamboyance can be seen as a coping mechanism for dealing with transphobia, building a defence around her identity. As she says in season one, “The more flamboyant a woman is, the more she’s as beautiful as a poisonous flower.” One thing that Grell does well is knowing herself; she does not let insults towards her gender get to her, she presents femininely whilst battling her supernatural rivals with no reservation. She might not be a shining example of a good human being in general, but as first introductions to trans people go, I’m glad that mine was such a deliciously fun and self-affirming one.

You may be angry at me for this list of characters, and that’s fine; all of them have been on the receiving end of hatred from both cis and trans communities for being controversial. I just know that these characters have helped me in my own journey as a trans person and have taught me that no matter that my body looks like, or what my traits are, no one can take my identity away from me.

For more canon LGBT+ cartoon characters, you can check out this Wikipedia list, this tumblr blog,  and this post on My Anime List.

Keep your stress down with a dressed-down Christmas

Christmas is close now, so close I can almost smell it. Well, not almost, I can definitely smell it. My mother is in the kitchen baking mince pies till dawn, there are roast chestnuts and mulled wine on offer at every street vendor in town, and cranberry scented candles are literally everywhere I look. One thing I could do without adding to my list of Christmas worries this year is what I’m going to be wearing. I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to hear that I am certainly not alone in this.

Insight from men’s retailer Reem Clothing has surveyed that the most popular looks for the 2016 festive party season are casual. I’m not talking novelty knitted jumpers emblazoned with bad puns. I’m talking Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby when he’s chilling in that classy cream sweater. You know, this one.

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There are thousands of ways to look classy without putting in a huge amount of effort. An interesting pair of shoes with a simple shirt, a nice sweater with a statement watch, etc. 2016 hasn’t exactly been the kindest of years, so why not focus on the most important things like socialising with friends and family, rather than finding an expensive suit to feel awkward in.

Clothing has a massive impact on how we behave around others. Don’t believe me? Here are some interesting statistics from that survey I mentioned earlier…

  • Over half of men (54%) admit that they feel most confident when in a slim or straight fit clothing
  • Polo shirts are the most popular choice of clothing for a night out among men (19%) with colours of choice being either blue (35%) or black (29%) with the least popular colour choice being yellow (0.56%)
  • Over a third of those questioned (38%) said casual clothes were the most attractive for both men and women

Personally, I have decided to opt for the simple jumper and statement shoes option. I will be wearing the Sato Twist Knit from Only & Sons, some simple black jeans, and my new Giovanni di Paolo print Dr Martens from their Museum collection. As you can see, I let my shoes do the talking.

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If you are in need of a little inspiration, you can take a look at the latest collections from the likes of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger Denim and Gym King from your phone or device at www.reemclothing.com

 

 

A Frosty Rococo Winter

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This December I’m all about the pastels. Since bleaching my hair into a kind of white/silver amalgamation, I have been wearing a lot of pale colours and avoiding bright, bold shades. Pale peach and pastel pinks are particularly fashionable this winter, along with lace cut tops and shirts. You can find a fantastic variety from asos, Next, and even ebay.

I recently picked up this high-knecked, victorian style, lace blouse from a charity shop, and it went perfectly the ‘DEEP ROOTED‘ matt brown lipstick from MAC and my new ROCAILLE choker from Raspberry Mazohyst.

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This choker is made from clear plastic with rococo detail. It is incredibly comfy and versatile and by far my favourite accessory to date. Never before have I considered wearing a plastic choker to a dinner party, but the ROCAILLE choker exudes elegance and refinement.

Complete this winter look with some silver or gold glitter for your face and maybe a stick-on gem or two (I get mine from Claire’s Accessories). It may not be typically festive, but will turn you into a real life frost fairy.

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Cranberry Decadence, An Ero Guro Look

I was delighted to open my mail today to find another delicious accessory from Raspberry Mazohyst to share with you. This gorgeous choker is a delight to wear and the ‘fan favourite’ from Narcyz’s shop.

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Made from clear vinyl and plush red velvet, this choker is perfect for adding a splash of decadence to your outfit. The silver rings add a subtle flare for the fetishistic, enough to be noticed without being too outlandish. Whether you are dressed head to toe in rubber and about to grace a BDSM club, or you simply want to add a unique twist to a casual grunge getup, this choker will do the job and make your outfit stand out. It is a very diverse piece and will look fantastic with a variety of outfits.

Not only does it look great, but it is also very comfy. As gross as this is, I had a bad cold when I took these pictures, but the choker sat comfortably around my neck despite my swollen glands.

My own personal style mixes bondage themed accessories with casual jumpers, shirts etc, heavily influenced by visual kei and Japanese street fashion. This choker works perfectly for this style, and I paired it with an ero guro inspired jumper for a macabre everyday look.

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Cranberry IMP choker: Rasberry Mazohyst shop

Haoyouduo Eyeball jumper: Aliexpress

Red eyeshadow: Sugarpill ‘Burning Heart’ palette

White eyeliner: NYX cosmetics 

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