Pokémon Sun/Moon 3DS Review

If I had to estimate, Pokémon is probably the video game series I’ve spent the most hours with in my entire life. From the moment I picked Bulbasaur all the way back on my 11th birthday in 1999 I knew I’d found the perfect game for me. The Pokémon series was the first RPGs I’d ever played and it’s a great introduction to the genre. The cartoon that had also started that year was also my first real exposure to anime, save for some badly dubbed 80s cartoons I may have seen. All of this combined into a perfect pokéstorm of new and exciting things and I’ve been on board ever since.

 

Moon and its counterpart Sun are the latest instalment in the main Pokémon series and while it does mark a bit of a departure to the Pokémon formula there’s still some familiar aspects to keep older fans interested.

 

I only played Pokémon Moon but Sun is effectively the same game just with a few version exclusive Pokémon and minor changes.

 

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You start off the game in pretty much the same way you always do. A nameless aspiring Pokémon trainer that moves to a new island/country with their mother. In this case you’re a new arrival in the Alola region which is basically Hawaii. Here you befriend the local professor who gives you your first Pokémon and sets up your whole journey. Your main goal is to collect and train a team of pocket monsters that are strong enough to defeat all rivals and help you eventually become the Pokémon League Champion. You do this by finding wild Pokémon in the plentiful tall grass and water of the Alolan region. Once you find a monster you like the look of you can catch it in a Pokéball then it becomes part of your team. You can then send it back out into battle to level up and eventually evolve into a stronger monster.

 

Right away I noticed some improvements from the older games in the presentation of the story moments. The camera angles and character animations are much more lively and charming than any of the previous games. The world overall feels a lot more alive. When you walk down a path you’ll hear the cries of Pokémon in the area, the various towns people will mill around instead of being motionless statues and sometimes Pokémon will randomly swoop down from the sky or jump out of a bush to battle you. All of this just really goes to show how far they’ve come since those early Gameboy days, it’s even a vast improvement from 2013’s X and Y games. All of these improvements to the world do have a cost though. I experienced a lot of slow down in any battle with more than 2 pokemon, in busy areas of the cities or when big special attacks were used. You can tell this game is really pushing the 3DS to its limits. Supposedly some of these issues can be mitigated by having one of the New Nintendo 3DS’s but I’m still rocking the 4 year old 3DS XL so I can’t personally confirm that.

 

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Speaking of special attacks that’s one of Sun/Moon’s new additions. Throughout your journey you’ll be faced with island challenges which take the place of the classic Pokémon gyms we’ve seen in other games. These challenges are quite different because instead of battling a gym leader at the end you’re attacked by an extra strong wild Totem Pokémon. At the start of the battle the Totem pokemon gets a beneficial stat boost and he can also call in some ally Pokémon making it a 2 on 1 fight. These battles became a refreshing challenge as the game went on because in previous games I’ve always felt pretty overpowered throughout. Once you defeat this boss you’re given a Z-Crystal which can power up a specific type of move letting you unleash a super attack once per battle. These Z-Attacks are pretty spectacular to watch (they’re almost as epic as a Final Fantasy summon) and can often let you easily take out a threat before they do any damage to your team.

 

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As with any good Pokémon game there is always a team of evil doers who try to thwart your progress at every turn and Sun/Moon introduces Team Skull. Normally these bad guy teams are pretty forgettable but Team Skull are beyond charming, they’re just so dumb and pathetic you can’t help but root for them.

 

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They’re basically the Pokémon world equivalent of Juggalos only a lot less gross. All of their lines of dialogue are spoken in rhyme and their appearance is always signalled by a goofy rap beat music track. The way they convey so much personality without any voice acting is a joy to experience and it’s head and shoulders above anything else in the series. There is a much bigger focus on story and characters in this game. It all flows together quite well too, you always know what you’re doing and very rarely stuck wondering where you need to go next. There are some fun twists and turns along the way but overall it felt like there was a bit too much of an anime influence and there were a lot of moments where things got a bit to ridiculous to take seriously.

 

Pokémon Sun/Moon are huge games and when you lay it all out it can seem a bit daunting especially now that we’re up to a total of 802 Pokémon as of this release. The amazing thing is that Pokémon games can be played at almost any level of complexity. You could really dig into the minutia and weigh up all the strengths and weaknesses of your Pokémon in every battle or you could probably just over level your starter Pokémon so that it outclasses everything you battle and ignore strategy altogether. It offers something to people of all skill levels which is probably why it’s been one of Nintendo’s most successful and enduring franchises. Whether you’re a returning Pokémon Super Nerd or a new fan brought in after the phenomenon of Pokémon GO I’m sure you’ll be able to find something to enjoy.

 

★★★★★

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John Wick (2014) Review

For some reason whenever I hear the name Keanu Reeves I don’t immediately think “action hero”. After pondering this I’ve realised that’s my own problem, perhaps I watched the Bill & Ted movies too much as a child because all I think of whenever he’s mentioned is this…

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Woah

However, after watching John Wick I am totally a believer in Keanu as an action star and if they do ever make a third Bill & Ted movie I’ll probably be a bit on edge expecting Mr. Logan to snap and go on a killing spree at any moment.

This review will contain some early plot spoilers for John Wick

One Man and His Dog

In the opening of the movie you’re treated to a montage of Mr Wick enjoying his life with what you assume is his wife. Unfortunately it’s not long before this goes sour, she ends up in hospital with an unknown illness and before we know it we’re at her rainy funeral. Upon getting home John receives an unexpected delivery at his house. The cutest puppy in all of existence!!!

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Daawwwwwwwwww

Turns out she was expecting her untimely death and set up this surprise pupper to be delivered after her funeral. It’s cool for plot purposes but this is not a thing normal people do.

Woof Woof Bang Bang

After some cute bonding scenes between him and the pup he realises he needs to get some doggy chow. While he’s out his cool car gets the attention of some unsavoury Russian mob types (led by Reek from Game of Thrones) who want to buy it but he not so politely declines. This leads to them following him and invading his home late at night so they can beat him up and steal his car keys. During this ruckus the bad guys commit one of the greatest atrocities in film history and kill the dog! Now with this being a revenge story they had to kill someone to get the film going. Usually it’s the main characters partner, mentor or good friend. They really ratcheted it up a notch with this puppy though, after seeing this any person with an ounce of humanity will want to go after these bad guys with the fury of a thousand suns.

Reek then goes back to his mob boss father to brag about his successful night of horror but once daddy realises who they’ve stolen from he gives him a very satisfying (for the audience) gut punch. Turns out John Wick is one of the greatest hitman in the entire world, a one man army that gained the nickname Baba Yaga (The Boogeyman). Reek’s disappointed father isn’t very confident in his son’s chances but does agree to at least try to protect him. While these scenes are going on we’re treated to a furious John Wick smashing up his garage floor to reveal his secret stash of high-powered weaponry and gold coins that he presumably thought he’d never need again.

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Killing is his business…

After this point the movie never really slows down. John goes on a monumental killing spree at all of the Russian mob’s places of business trying to flush out Reek and his idiot friends. The action has a really good flow to it. Wick moves smoothly from one henchman to the next either filling them with bullets or doling out a fatal beating. He doesn’t pause to say one liners or anything stupid like that, he just keeps on killing.

Unfortunately I did feel like this action style got a bit stale after the first few scenes. I guess I prefer when there’s a bit more variety in my action movies. I would have liked it if they’d taken some inspiration from movies like The Raid where there’s seemingly endless variety in the ways the bad guys are dealt with.

One thing that really impressed my about the action scenes is that they always synced up with the movie’s musical score. It really helped give the action a rhythm and it just feels good to watch. They also filmed the action in a way that you can always tell what’s happening. There are so many modern action films where the camera is zoomed in too far and you can’t tell what’s going on (I’m looking at you Dark Knight trilogy). Whether this is to hide sloppy fight choreography or intentional I’m not sure but there’s none of that in John Wick, it’s a pleasure to watch.

 

Show, Don’t Tell

One surprising thing for me was that they actually set up a pretty interesting universe in between the brutal action. There are times when you’re given glimpses of John’s hitman world. he stays at a hotel that serves as his base of operations in the city but it’s also a place where no hitman-y business is to be conducted. There’s even a fancy jazz bar on the premises where everyone knows John’s name. Everything is paid for with these big pirate style gold doubloon coins and you get a sense that all the characters have a crazy history together but they leave most of that an intriguing mystery.

I was really impressed with this movie overall, it’s definitely not the best pure action film I’ve ever seen (That’s still The Raid) but John Wick is very well-rounded. All of its pieces come together well and there are no wasted scenes or dull parts. I’m really excited to see where they go in the future and their newly announced sequel John Wick: Chapter 2 is high on my list of 2017 movies already.

★★★★☆

Dirty 30 -Movie Review

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I have a confession… I haven’t bought a movie for years. I get DVDs for Christmas but generally I just wait until a film is out on Netflix or NowTV before I watch it.

Dirty 30 was different. I’ve been watching YouTube for years now and Grace Helbig was one of the first people I ever subscribed to and of course this lead to me to following Mamrie and Hannah Hart (not related). I’ve followed the holy trinity for years now and they’ve never failed to keep me entertained.

In 2014 the three YouTubers starred in Camp Takota and after seeing many a YouTuber try to make is as an actor/actress, I was wary that my three favourites would follow in their footsteps and appear wooden and over act. Nevertheless, I bought Camp Takota (probably the last thing I bought before Dirty Thirty) and was pleasantly surprised when I found that the three women were good actresses and I enjoyed the film more than I had a lot of high budget films.dirty-30-mamrie-hart-grace-helbig-hannah-hart

When I heard Dirty 30 was being made, I knew it was something I would eventually want to watch and I looked forward to behind the scenes on YouTube. I didn’t realise however, that I would be buying and watching Dirty 30 the day it came out because I was just too impatient to wait until it was on Netflix.

Dirty 30 follows Kate (Mamrie Hart) on the approach to her thirtieth birthday. After receiving a letter in the post which she wrote to herself as a child, she realises her life is in a rut. Kate’s two best friends, Evie (Grace Helbig) and Carlie (Hannah Hart), manage to convince Kate she should have a big party for her thirtieth in the hope that she will maybe get out of her rut.

I loved everything about this film. Not only are the main three YouTube starts great actresses but the supporting cast are excellent. Never once did I feel any of the cast were wooden and the real life friendships between the cast was clear on screen as well as they normally are off.

The story itself was great, I’m anyone’s for a bit of romance and this film was full of it with a nice helping of comedy to go with it. I loved the character of Kate and, as a 28 year old female, I felt I understood her completely as a single female just trying to work it where their life if headed. Along with this I felt the friendship between Kate, Evie and Charlie was just brilliant. They were the perfect mix of people who met in school and stayed friends despite living completely different lifestyles.

dirty-30-movie-poster-612x380Evie and Charlie were the perfect sidekicks, I loved Evie’s constant enthusiasm, wether it was about throwing a party or helping alpacas with alopecia while Charlie’s competitive nature made for excellent comedy.

As I said, I love a bit of romance and I was completely absorbed with the romance between Kate and Dan, I spent a lot of my viewing time just waiting for them to realise their love for each other. Like a lot of Grace Helbig fans I also ship Grester (Grace and Chester See) so much and from the second Ben (Chester See) took a shot from Evie’s belly button, I was hooked.

Now I don’t want to ruin anything for those who haven’t seen the film but the ending was just as great as the beginning and middle. If you want some light humour with a good helping of romance then I would certainly recommend Dirty 30.

5/5 stars.

To watch the trailer click here.

The Frankenstein Theory (2013) Review

I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m the modern Horror genre’s biggest fan but every so often I find myself scrolling through Netflix or NowTV’s selection to see if anything piques my interest. On my latest trip I came across The Frankenstein Theory and at first glance it ticked some of the boxes for me. I mentioned in my review of The Visit that I like the found footage genre but I also like a good monster movie and this touted both in the description. It also said on the poster it showed on NowTV that it was from the creators of The Last Exorcism which is actually one of my favourite horror movies of all time. However since watching it I’ve looked up both these movies and I can’t find any crossover members of the directing, producing, music or writing teams on the Wikipedia pages so I don’t know where that claim came from.

 

This review will contain full spoilers

 

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Thinking About Neck Bolts

Our story opens up in the office of Professor Jonathan Venkenheim who has hired a documentary crew lead by our main character Vicky for a secret adventure. The audience and the film crew both get the big reveal at the same time, Venkenheim is in search of a Frankenstein monster! He believes that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was actually a loose retelling of actual events and that his ancestor is the real Dr. Frankenstein. Unfortunately all the evidence of this was burned in a lab fire but he still holds out hope that the monster is still alive. Understandably the crew don’t believe a word of this but he’s paying good money so they go along with it. I really liked the comradery between the film crew, they are the grounded characters that act as the audience surrogate and mostly remark on how stupid and hopeless their situations are.

 

So apparently ol’ Frank is somewhere in the wilds of Canada at the moment so they pack up and set out on the road. Their first stop is with an eye witness they want to interview but it turns out this witness is a little bit of a meth head who holds them up at gunpoint when they mention he may have met Dr. F’s monster. So as you can expect from a horror movie it all goes downhill from here. Next they meet up with their guide Karl who can take them further into the wilderness, he’s your classic salty old hard-ass. They play him off to be a bit creepy at first as he tells them that out there you either listen to his orders or face an icy death. I really enjoyed this character though, his inclusion alleviates some of the tension once the gang gets to know him a bit over some drinks while they’re huddled in a yurt.

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Fright Night

Once nightfall comes is where things start to get a bit more weird. At first they all hear the baying of wolves which is unsettling but then they hear an almighty roar and some thrashing that freaks everyone out and silences the wolves. Come morning they find that their snowmobile is trashed leaving them a stranded. They also find some comically big footprints which Karl decides to follow so he can teach whoever did it a lesson. This starts off that good old horror movie cliche of everyone being picked off one by one. This is where the film lost me, you don’t see nearly enough of the monster and he seems to be able to appear out of nowhere considering he’s so huge. You’d also think he’d be more noticeable seeing as they’re surrounded by untouched white snow so anything approaching should stick out like a big green sore thumb.

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So even after all of this murdering Prof. Venkenheim still thinks he can reason with Big F using their shared family ties but he seems reluctant to go out there and put this to the test. He is eventually forced to once Frankie has Vicky and him trapped in the yurt. At this point we’re watching through a locked camera pointed at the door. We see him walk out then hear him try to reason with him and at first it seems to be working but then we hear what sounds like Venkenheim getting snapped in half.

 

I'm sad now

 

So it’s not until the very last scene that we get a decent look at the monster and he just looks like the giants from Game of Thrones but a bit more zombie like I guess. He comes into the room, bashes Vicky on the head and carries her off. We get to watch him stroll away into the distance through the open door as the credits roll and that’s it! I felt like this movie ended just as it was getting going. They could have at least let us see what life was like for Francesco and his new lady friend through handheld camera footage or something. It was seriously the most jarring and unsatisfying ending I’ve experienced in a long time. I would have really liked to see more hunting of the monster, he just shows up the first night they set up camp without any mystery at all. The main reason I watched this was because of the (now tenuous) links to The Last Exorcism but this was nowhere near as good so I would just recommend you watch that instead.

 

★★☆☆☆

No Man’s Sky – Review PS4

If you’ve tried to follow any of the news about this game over the 3 years since it was announced you’re probably pretty confused as to what this game is. The release of No Man’s Sky has been irreversibly marred by controversy due to one of the creators Shaun Murray being a bit vague about whether or not there is multiplayer. People have been unfairly slamming the game with low user review scores, trying to claim refunds on grounds of false advertising and most disturbingly sending death threats to the development team. I can say up front with 100% certainty that there is no multiplayer at all in No Man’s Sky and honestly I don’t think that would have made people happy anyway.

 

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So what is this game? At its most basic level NMS is a survival game, you explore an environment looking for resources to repair your ship, power your suit and upgrade your items. There have been plenty of similar games like this (e.g. Minecraft, Don’t Starve, The Long Dark) released on PC but NMS’s gimmick that set’s it apart is its huge universe that you can freely explore.

 

Lost in Space

 

You start the game by taking control of a faceless spaceman/woman/robot who wakes up next to a crashed ship on a random planet. This serves as the game’s tutorial mission, you need to repair your ship so you can leave the planet. The interesting thing about this task is that the planet is random so you can have a pretty different experience to another person. I started out on a horrible lifeless planet with acid rain that was constantly ticking away at my suit’s life support. You have to collect various elements like iron and plutonium by mining rocks and crystals then combine them into the missing ship parts. This can take a couple of hours depending on how lucky you get with resources in the area, it becomes a sort of balancing act though because some of these same resources are also used to recharge your life support. The start of this game is very confusing, it doesn’t really make a good first impression. I think it leaves you to figure out way too much on your own which just frustrated me especially because I had to keep running back to my ship to avoid the acid rain.

 

Once you fix your ship you’re finally free to start exploring SPAAAACE! I got the hell off my planet first second I could, once you get past the atmosphere you should start to see some planets around the current start system you’re in. You can fly to any of these planets which is a video game dream people have had for years. Your overall goal is to journey to the center of the universe but other than that you’re just supposed to explore the endless planets.

 

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Throughout the marketing cycle they have been boasting that the game contains over 18 quintillion planets which is an almost unfathomable number if you’re not an astrophysicist. Most people playing the game will probably only see around 50-100 before they’re done so the game never really feels that big while you’re playing. I am in no way discounting the amazing technological achievement this game is however, the developer Hello Games have done some amazing things here. In the way Minecraft can randomly generate a landmass for you to play on NMS’s universe has been built in a similar way. Hello Games figured out a formula that creates planets all with random weather, animals, plants, alien buildings and oceans which is how such a small team has created something this huge. Once this had all been generated it was locked in place so everyone playing the game right now is in the same starting universe.

 

Fear of a Meme Planet

 

One of the only interactions you can have with other players is naming things you discover. If you’re the first person to discover something whether it be a star system, planet, creature, plant or rock you will have the opportunity to name it yourself. If by chance someone else were to land on your planet they would be see what you had named it. In my hours of playtime I didn’t come across anything other people had discovered, it seems as these kinds of interactions are extremely rare. How disappointing that barely anyone will get to explore the majesty of my planet Harambe IV in the Dark Naruto 420 star system but I guess that will make it a really special moment if you do find some evidence of another player.

 

On paper this really does sound like one of the greatest games of all time but unfortunately it’s just not that much fun. I ended up getting stuck in a rut just doing the same things over and over again. I would enter a star system, land on the nearest planet, look for a inventory upgrade, sell all my extra items then do it all again. There are definitely others things I could have been doing but none of it felt worth it.

 

NMS dog thing

 

They give you a very vague path to follow which I guess you could call a story but unfortunately it all amounts to nothing. After a while I found myself skipping planets which is not something I wanted to do but they don’t give you enough incentive to explore. A lot of the planets have the same buildings and alien ruins on them and there are no quests or missions to found on the planets. If you meet another alien they usually just give you a random item recipe or teach you a bit of their language so you can eventually understand what they’re saying. The aliens have actually been my favourite part of the game. They found a way to make them really charming even though for most of the game you can’t understand what they’re saying to you.

 

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This game works much better as a passive activity, if you’ve got some music or a podcast to listen to while you play you’ll probably see less of NMS’s downsides. This game was just a bit of a disappointment for me. I didn’t have any ridiculous expectations like some other people on the internet but I did expect it to be more of a rewarding experience. I’ll definitely come back to it from time to time because it can be a beautiful game and it is a pretty amazing technical feat.

 
★★★☆☆

G.L.O.S.S. – Trans Day of Revenge Review

G.L.O.S.S. aka Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit, are a hardcore punk band from Olympia, Washington (State). They specialise in writing songs in support of the LGBTQ+ community with their own very personal brand of unflinching musical protest.

 

Trans Day of Revenge is a follow up to their incredible 2015 debut demo and this release is equally incredible in it’s own right. It’s an album calling for an end to the pacifism people have regarding violence against the LGBTQ+ community and People of Colour. The singer Sadie’s lyrics burn with rage and a cynicism that you rarely hear when people talk about these topics in mainstream media.

 

gloss album art

 

While the lyrics are poignant and modern, their actual musical style is kind of a throwback. It reminds me of Minor Threat and other American Hardcore bands of that era. G.L.O.S.S. skate the musical line between control and a frenzy so well. Every song will immediately get you fired up and you can almost feel the band’s passion flowing through you.

 

The first song “Give Violence a Chance” starts out with Sadie screaming out a battle cry “When peace is just another word for death/It’s our turn to give violence a chance.”. This song deals with the many deaths of black people there have been at the hands of the law. The release of this album on June 13th 2016 also tragically coincided with Orlando Pulse shooting giving this song extra impact and importance. It’s a great opener to the album and sets a hard and fast pace that the rest of the songs follow.

 

The song “Fight” is a powerful call to arms encouraging trans people to fight for their lives. The song starts off with an awesome scream and runs from there, never stopping for anything. The lyrics “Don’t give them a chance/Sleep with a hammer/Fill a clip with nine rounds/Plus one in the chamber/When the front door comes down” are really effective at conveying the struggle trans people are forced to deal with. At the time of writing the last 3 reported murders of trans people of colour were all in their own homes. It’s an uncomfortable message to hear but it’s something that needs to be heard.

 

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Their singer Sadie is a trans woman herself and the song “We Live” is an introspective chronicle of her own experiences growing up trans and finding solace in the punk scene. It’s also an inspirational song for anyone else going through similar issues with the lyrics like “We live and die/Against the grain/For ourselves we live” encouraging solidarity.

 

The final song “Trans Day of Revenge” is my favourite track of the album. This song opens with an awesome groovy riff. It just makes me want to dive into the mosh pit immediately. The punching chorus repeats the title of the song and every time I hear it I want to shout along with them. The song ends on a perfect line to sum up this whole album “Not as weak as we seem”.

 

 

I believe that this will go down as one of the most important punk albums of all time. If I achieve anything by writing this it’s that a few more people will know about this band. They’re a band for all the outcasts, a voice for the voiceless.

 

This release may only be 5 tracks and clocks in at 6 minutes and 58 seconds but that in no way diminishes any of it’s impact. I’ve just been playing it on a loop, I just can’t get enough. Right now it’s only available on their Bandcamp page for pay-what-you-want.

 

We need bands like this to exist in the world. Trans Day of Revenge feels like closest my generation will have to a Sex Pistols moment, an album and band that deserve to set the world on fire. It’s a really exciting start to what’s hopefully a long music career. Wherever G.L.O.S.S. go in the future they have my full support. Get used to it or get out of their way.

 

★★★★★

Gojira – Magma Review

In a departure from their usual style, Gojira’s 6th studio release ‘Magma’ is a very personal album dealing with concepts of grief and despair over the loss of a loved one. During the recording of this album vocalist and guitarist Joe Duplantier and drummer Mario Duplantier lost their mother and this had a profound effect on the mood and theme of the songs.

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Not only is the tone of their songs quite different from the previous work their sound has also changed quite a bit. Everything sounds stripped down, the guitars aren’t as harsh, the bass has a distorted muddy sound, the drum compositions are simpler and there are more instances of clean vocals. If you’re already a metal fan this may sound a bit off putting but all of the changes together really help with the concept of the album. The quality of the songs in no way suffer from the simpler instrumentation. No track feels out of place on the album and they all sound like they’ve had a lot of thought put into them.

 

The opening tracks of the album ‘Shooting Star’ and ‘Silvera’ really set the tone up front with heavy droning guitar riffs. The way the songs meander creates an otherworldly dreamlike feeling that really helps you get into the band’s head space. The main riff in ‘The Cell’ demonstrates this perfectly, the punching guitar and bass build an impressively oppressive sense of dread throughout the track.

 

The standout song for me is ‘Stranded’. The vocal performance during the chorus is amazing. You can really feel the emotion and the pain, Joe sounds like he’s singing for his life. Pouring every bit of his passion into it, especially when they change the key the last time around.

 

 

Some of Gojira’s more classic sound does come back for the later songs ‘Pray’ and ‘Only Pain’. Mario’s trademark double bass pedal drumming is back in full force here. It feels as if this is the band finding themselves a little amongst all the darkness as the album progresses. The lyrics in the song ‘Low Lands’ reads like a message to their mother and it’s heartbreaking. There’s a hopeful theme to this song and it has a strong ending riff that feels like the band is waking from a dream state, ready to tackle the future.

I will admit that it took me a few listens to really get into this album. It is a bit of a change in style from their previous albums which was a shock at first but it’s actually became one of my favourite metal albums of all time. You can tell it’s a deeply personal work of art right from the start, Gojira have expertly translated all the pain and emotion of grief into some of the greatest music of 2016.

 

★★★★★