ONE SENTENCE REVIEW: ‘Spent the Day in Bed’- Morrissey

The music team review Morrissey’s single ‘Spent the Day in Bed’ from his new album ‘Low in High School.’ The track’s lyrics encourage listeners to stay in bed backed by electric piano and synths. Does our music team think Morrissey has another hit on his hands? Find out below…

Laura: It sounds like a parody of Morrissey, but I kinda want it as my alarm ringtone.

Molly: Sounds like Morrissey’s auditioning for Lazy Town.

Phoebe: I wasn’t sure if I liked it the first time I listened to it, so I listened to it again and realised I really hate it.

Emmanuel: Hey at least I have a new ringtone for my nokia phone.

Todd: Spent three minutes in hell.

Joe: Moz it’s time to stop.

Mitch: It just didn’t need to exist.

Jamie: Feels like a ringtone you’d bluetooth your friends on the bus in 2008.

Harry: I wanted to turn it off about quarter of the way through but other people were listening to it.

Ryan: It’s like when you were 8 and tried to use nokia’s ringtone maker.

 

It would seem not. This is just what we think, go and have a listen to the track to see if you agree. 

 

 

Concert Review: Sundara Karma

If you think guitar music is dead, think again, you obviously haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Sundara Karma live.

An indie rock band originally from Reading, Sundara Karma released their debut album, Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect, at the beginning of 2017, following up from three successful EP releases. The October 5th gig at the o2 Academy Brixton was the biggest venue of the tour, and as lead singer and guitarist Oscar Pollock said whilst addressing the crowd, the biggest show the band have ever played.

Up first out of the two support acts was Willie J Healey, an indie guitarist, who released his debut album in August and whose blend of classic indie style guitar music, combined with some slightly rockier undertones in later songs, went down extremely well with the crowd. Following him was the Brighton band The Magic Gang, a band that was the perfect choice to support Sundara Karma – stylistically, the band produces music very much in the same vein to that of Sundara Karma, and the two bands share many of the same fans, evident by the mosh pit that sprung up during the first song of The Magic Gang’s set. The Magic Gang have been outspoken in previous interviews about wanting to bring the UK indie scene back, and after seeing them perform, it’s clear that they are incredibly intent on doing just that with their ear-catching and exciting music. They played a seven song set including crowd favourites ‘Lady, Please’ and ‘How Can I Compete,’ and are due to release their debut album sometime next year.

Prior to Sundara Karma taking the stage, what sounded like a ‘Nature Sounds for Sleep’ album was playing, creating a chill atmosphere in what was otherwise an incredibly excited crowd. The band opened with ‘Another Word For Beautiful,’ from their debut album, a song which was the perfect choice to follow the pre-set music, with its ambient opening and lead singer Oscar Pollock’s almost Bowie-esque vocals on this track. It only took the band six songs until Pollock jumped into the crowd to sing ‘Flame,’ an undoubted highlight of their set and a song that is, without question, one of the best indie songs I’ve heard in recent years. The crowd seemed to agree, and it was amazing to see a band that had such support from fans already, having only just released their debut album. Sundara Karma is comprised of lead singer and guitarist Pollock, bassist Dom Cordell, lead guitarist Ally Baty, and drummer Haydn Evans, who all seemed to be genuinely having the greatest time onstage, and truly relished being able to play their new album to their fans. The band have spoken previously about using literary and philosophical references within their songs, most notably in ‘Flame’ and ‘Loveblood,’ and this attention to detail could also be seen in their backdrop of three circles, recognisable for being used several times in various album and EP cover art. These were lit from behind, looking almost like an eclipse and adding an even more artsy vibe to the gig. Other notable songs were the upbeat and catchy ‘She Said,’ an indie classic if ever there was one, and the two encore songs, ‘Happy Family’ and ‘Explore.’ The band put on a truly fantastic show for their biggest one to date, and having gone to the gig already a fan, I came away an even bigger one, with a renewed faith in the current UK indie scene.

Review by: Phoebe Hagan

FESTIVAL REVIEW: NOS Alive 2016

From the 7th – 9th July 2016, the music and arts festival NOS Alive in Lisbon, Portugal, celebrated its 10-year anniversary. With the beautiful weather and location, the festival has grown considerably over those 10 years, evolving into an event popular not just within Portugal but across Europe and the world. It now attracts both local and international visitors, as well as widely spread big and upcoming artists from a variety of musical genres. Having been fortunate enough to attend the festival this year, I had the opportunity to see headliners including Radiohead, The Chemical Brothers and Arcade Fire as well as other big names from a range of genres, such as; The 1975, Years and Years, Biffy Clyro, Two Door Cinema Club, Band of Horses, M83, Wolf Alice, Tame Impala, Foals, Pixies and Grimes. The list is endless and it was awesome!

As it was my first festival ever, I was a little anxious at the prospect of going to one abroad instead of remaining within the UK. However, following the three days I can confirm that the festival combined everything that I love about music in an environment that was both safe and organized but also just the greatest fun! From the moment you arrived following the 4pm opening, whether by car, train or bus from the local campsite, there was live music as well as people handing out lanyards and colorful cowboy hats, ready to greet you. Entering the festival area with the sea on one side and beautiful cultural landmarks on the other, it was evident that the light-up sign along the edge that said, “The Dream is Real” could not have been more accurate. From there, the music, starting officially at about 6pm on one of the three main stages (NOS, Heineken and Clubbing), continued non-stop through to the next morning’s sunrise.

With a line up that continues to get better every year, it was hard to pick just a few stand out performances. The Chemicals Brothers however, packed the main NOS stage, with the entire crowd hanging onto every beat of the intense bass, enjoying their endless drop teasing. The incredible light show and addition of two giant robots also helped to create an atmosphere of communal excitement. Two Door Cinema Club, who were very well received on the Heineken stage, also deserve a mention and were a personal favourite, with their ceaseless collection of indie rock hits that got the entire crowd jumping and dancing. It was this feeling of celebration and enjoyment that was evident in each crowd across the course of the festival and what really made the few days. With the range in age of the audiences, from the most adorable 6 year olds all the way up to seasoned festival veterans, the collections of friends and families were open, enthusiastic and respectful. Evident particularly, in the mosh pits of Foals and Biffy Clyro, the voluntary nakedness for the big screens during Tame Impala and the presenting of a bra to Father John Misty! As well as, of course, the non-stop insane dance moves throughout the nights.

The festival was also home to many independent food stands serving a range of items ranging from wraps to burgers, pasta, pizza, and churros. The bars set up around the arena also sold endless Heineken beer along with a mix of many other drinks and I feel the need to mention that the bathrooms were also surprisingly adequate! Overall, I have only positive things to say about my experience at NOS Alive 2016! With a capacity of only about 55,000, the festival combined the joys of being a part of an amazingly excited crowd whilst maintaining a community feel and intimacy with the artists. The line up speaks for itself and I know the festival will only continue to grow from here based on its past success. If you are at all interested in exploring alternatives to just UK festivals, NOS Alive is one of the firsts you should consider!

*For more info visit: http://nosalive.com/en/

ALBUM REVIEW: Tom Odell – 'Wrong Crowd'

Tom Odell’s ‘Wrong Crowd’ Album Review


There was a lot of excitement in the rise up to Tom Odell’s new album ‘Wrong Crowd’. Prior to the release, Tom teased his fans with the slow reveal of some of his albums’ hits, such as ‘Wrong Crowd’, ‘Here I am’, ‘Magnetised’ – songs which, like so many others, made me remember just how talented he is. His first debut album back in 2013, ‘Long Way Down’, made it into the Official Chart. In the interim, his few, but powerful tracks, have had a positive response from listeners.

Three years on, ’Wrong Crowd’, released on June 10th 2016, delivers a rather depressing set of songs of heartbreak and misery – yet its catchy rhythm and lyrics, makes you want to hear more. His influence of Elton John really shines through – powerful piano riffs and new percussion-based beats, brings a new vibe to his music – different from previous releases. This development has benefitted his material considerably, by creating something quite different from the usual chart numbers.

Odell’s sold-out shows, titled ‘No Bad Days Tour’, begun on the 20th of April 2016 in London, and he will continue to perform in multiple festivals this summer, such as ‘T In The Park’ in July.

The tracklist for Wrong Crowd is as follows:

1. Wrong Crowd
2. Magnetised
3. Concrete
4. Constellations
5. Sparrow
6. Still Getting Used to Being On My Own
7. Silhouette
8. Jealousy
9. Daddy
10. Here I Am
11. Somehow

(Listen/Buy on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon*)

Each song seems to give a different feel; some good in exploiting his incredible vocals, some more attributed for energetic live performances (which got him spotted in the first place). One of the great things about the new, innovative album, is that a large majority of the tracks are ‘hit-worthy’ – in that they become well-known, whether making it to the charts, or simply having air-time. I believe that in Odell not rushing into producing music for label requirements or financial reasons, instead, draws passion and a heart-felt approach into every word and the overall sound; really reflecting on his success and influence as a young artist.

Ever since he released his first album, he has been climbing up the ladder to recognition and success, and I will patiently sit in the corner waiting for his next release, as this album will adequately ‘feed my thirst’ of his music till the next album.

*Tickets and Merchandise available on his website: http://www.tomodell.com

Hearts of Iron IV screenshot
Hearts of Iron IV screenshot

Game Review: Hearts of Iron IV

Background

Hearts of Iron IV is the fourth entry in the Hearts of Iron series from Paradox Interactive, the developers behind Europa Universalis, Crusader Kings and Stellaris. The year is 1945, on September 1st the old world is under the control of the resurgent Neo-Ottoman Empire. The old imperial powers of Britain, France and their allies have been pushed to the bottom of the African continent. The Americans are fearful of involving themselves due to a nuclear bomb having been detonated on New York, Washington DC and Boston: the prelude to the invasion of the Turkish Island hopping campaign. The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany have collapsed along with all major resistance in Europe. Today is only the start of the new empire of sons of Otto. This sums up my first 15 hours of my third campaign of this truly wondrous game: a game that lets you think and plan as a military planner would need to.

Story

The backdrop of the game takes place in either 1936 or in 1939. In 1936, you can push your nation state in certain ways that in 1939 would be impractical to do. This could be factors such as improving infrastructure, researching certain technologies and planning ahead of time. As such, for those more interested in the grand planning, it would be best to play in the 1936 era as you could look at your nation state and research how to progress in a way that would suit your playstyle. For those more interested in the grand conquests then picking a powerful nation in 1939 could be more of what you are looking for.

Mechanics

The mechanics feel at times like a more polished Europa style but at the same time feels like the game is trying to be overly complex. What the game aims to be is to as close to reality as possible but still be enjoyable as a game, a feature reflected in the game’s mechanics in many ways. For example, the game makes sure that you understand the importance of ensuring your forces are supplied with fuel, replacements and other logistic equipment – if you lack in some of these areas your troops could be hindered or beaten even if you outnumber and outclass the enemy. However, my biggest annoyance is how hard and tedious it can be to launch sea and air invasions. If you were to attack the United Kingdom, for example, you would need to have 75% control of the air as well almost complete control of all the parts of the sea you would need to send your troops. If you compare this to a game like Europa Universal IV, if you were to launch a sea invasion you would only need to put the troops on a transporter and send ships to defend it, however, in Hearts of Iron, you need to defend sections of sea and put yourself at risk to a massive sea invasion. I can understand the need to have this but with my experience with Stellaris and Europa it seems really weird in compassion.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Hearts of Iron IV is amazing if you are willing to have the patience for it and attempt to enjoy the game. The game is at its best when you can either become a massive superpower as a minor and weak nation, or when you finally defeat a nemesis that has long since been needing a good conquering.

Score

8 out of 10

ALBUM REVIEW: Netsky – '3'

Originally published on inthemeantime.me.uk

When it comes to the drum and bass scene, the first artist that usually comes to mind for me is either Sigma or Netsky. But as this title suggests, this is not a review of Sigma, today I’ve decided to review the highly anticipated third album by Netsky.

For me, I only got to know about Netsky after the start of the new year when I heard ‘Rio’ which features Digital Farm Animals. The chilled out vibes and the slower tempo, combined with the DnB made for a quaint mix which I personally liked, a lot. It was not until I discovered ‘Work It Out’ which also featured Digital Farm Animals, that I actually became a fan of his music. It was certainly a departure from my usual tropical house and cheese vibe, but I liked it.

Three Tracklist:

  1. Thunder feat. Emeli Sande
  2. Work it Out feat. Digital Farm Animals
  3. Rio feat. Digital Farm Animals
  4. Leave it Alone feat. Saint Raymond
  5. Who Knows feat. Paije
  6. Go 2
  7. High Alert feat. Sara Hartman
  8. TNT feat. Dave 1 from Chromeo
  9. Stay Up With Me feat. Arlissa
  10. Forget What You Look Like feat. Lowell
  11. Bird of Paradise
  12. Jauz X Netsky – Higher

I’ll try not to talk about every song..

To kick things off, Netsky partners up with Emeli Sande to produce ‘Thunder’. Starting with a string based instrumental introduction, it was an immediate cue for me to continue listening. In fact it became one of my favourite songs on the entire album. Emeli’s vocals were perfect for this song. I was glad to see that ‘Work it Out’ and ‘Rio’ were on this album because they were the first songs that made me a fan and so to see them on his third studio album made smile. ‘Leave it Alone’ was an interesting song which I found to be very funky in its approach. The backing vocals reminded me of ‘Higher’ by Sigma, but when the beat came in after the intro, I knew I’d like this song, and it certainly did not disappoint. But what surprised me the most was the next song. ‘Who Knows’ was certainly a surprising package. The mellow vibes along with the combination of string instruments and Paije’s vocals (which reminded me of John Newman) made for a beautiful song. ‘TNT’ was a departure from Netsky’s usual vibe. It was funky, it was something that I really got into. I think the vocals by Chromeo assisted in adding a certain degree of funkiness. No complaints though, I really like Chromeo as an artist and so to see them back is a welcome thing to see.

Whilst looking for music, I’ve been gathering lots of songs which I’ve found to be chilled in its approach, and I found a new songs to add to my list in ‘Who Knows’ and ‘Bird of Paradise’. In ‘Bird of Paradise’, the beautiful mixture of ambient noises, string instruments and piano, juxtaposed with the drum and bass beat makes for a wonderful combination.

‘Go 2’ showed promise. I could just about grasp a beat to the song. But it’s not something that I would say I enjoyed. Instead lets just say that it left me confused. Some songs that didn’t seem to hit the right chord with me were ‘Stay Up With Me’ and ‘Forget What you Look Like’. With these though, they’re not necessarily bad songs. They are in fact pretty good. They have the standard vibe that you would expect of a DnB-based album. However, I feel this is one occasion where releasing instrumental versions first followed by the release of the versions with vocals as ‘remixes’ might have made me enjoy it a lot more. I can certainly get into those songs, I just think I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more if it had been released as an original mix and a separate vocal remix. Something that is commonplace in the music industry, especially when it comes to EDM.

The Verdict..

The verdict from me personally is generally positive. I’ve criticised a few songs (sort of). Just like most EDM these days, there has been a shift in what can be considered ‘mainstream’. I’ve seen DnB evolve with that shift. From liquid DnB to just full on dirty DnB, you will always find something that you will enjoy. The thing I saw with Netsky was that there weren’t moments when the quality of the album peaked or troughed. Instead, it remained consistent. His style always shone through which is what we generally expect. We want more, but we want their type of more. The only gripes I had were based on my own confusion or what I would consider to be a better way to release the tracks. This certainly does not mean that it was flawless, but putting all my little gripes to one side, I will put my hands up and say that I loved this album.

ALBUM REVIEW: Boys Noize – 'Mayday'

Most people are unaware of Germany’s big techno scene and thus, are probably also unaware of Alex Ridha, aka Boys Noize. The Berlin-based producer started out in 2007 with his album Oi Oi Oi, ruthlessly banging brute electro beats in German club kids’ ears. By now, Boys Noize is among the most well-known techno DJs in the world, having collaborated with Skrillex as a duo called Dogblood, and played in sold out venues like Fabric. Boys Noize introduced me to techno with his 2009 club-tune ‘Jeffer’ and soon I found myself on my first ever rave with Boys Noize headlining. That’s why Boys Noize holds a special nostalgic feeling for me and it worried me when new song ‘Starchild’, featuring lyrics by singer Poliça, was released 2 months ago on his YouTube channel.

The first released song from his new album Mayday sounded more like Disclosure and other commercialised electronic music in the charts (not that I don’t like Disclosure, but in my opinion techno should feature less lyrics and more hard bass). But my anxiety that another of my favourite electronic artists had turned mainstream was unfounded and I was positively surprised to find that Mayday opens with 3 really convincing tracks. All of them are dark and vicious tracks a la Boys Noize style, that belong perfectly into a sweaty, flickering underground club, clanking the bass between the crowd. I can’t deny that the next song ‘Rock the Bells’ is captivating, but sampling Run DMC’s ‘Peter Piper’? Missy Elliot already did that back in 2002, so I immediately had the word unoriginal in my mind.

‘Euphoria’ and ‘2 Live’ both feature memorable melodies, but the songs take too much time to actually start and I was immensely annoyed by the added pop lyrics as the track would have worked better on its own. After this point the album comes to a long haul, because nothing really seems to happen. The tracks are not distinctively weak, but quiet repetitive and similar sounding. The next-to-last song ‘Hardkotzen’ I had to skip, because it was simply inaudible and gave me horrible headaches, which I guess because of the song title, was Boys Noize’s intention (‘Hardkotzen’ translated means ‘Vomiting harshly’).  The last track ‘Birthday’ stands out because of its rap lines by Hudson Mohawke und Spank Rock and bubblegum-pop beats, which is why at the end I’m still not sure if I really liked the song or absolutely hate it.

Whereas the album started out by surprising me with confetti tracks, Mayday dropped in the middle because of solid, but not really grandiose and innovative tracks, that are too repetitive. Boys Noize is missing something in these new tracks, most notably the spirit and ambition from his previous work.

Review by Carolin Wolfsdorf

 

MCM Comic Con May 2016

London MCM Comic Con, hosted in May 2016, was a smash hit event that wowed all those who attended. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and, if you can, you should attend the next Comic Con in October.

The cosplayers that were on show were amazing, showing the skill and grace that goes into recreating characters. It was amazing to see so many people in such amazing cosplay and I was impressed by the sheer variety of series that characters were taken from, such as One Punch Man, Beserk, Dragon Ball Z, Psycho Pass and Jo Jo Bizarre Adventure. When I was attending the various meets you could almost see characters being recreated detail by detail and showing that the skills required to cosplay, something that is often overlooked.

Another great part of the convention worth mentioning is that crowd management has greatly improved in effectiveness. Myself and my colleagues were able to see all the amazing items on sale without getting boxed in and lost as has happened in the past. Furthermore, upon speaking too others who were attending the event they, on pretty much every day there was a reduction in the amount of time it took to get inside the event, even on the Saturday which is seen as the busiest day of the event.

Furthermore, the variety of stalls on offer was something I thoroughly enjoyed. To have the ability to play the many games on offer (including Overwatch, Battleborn, Attack on Titan and Odin Sphere Leifthrasir to name a few) and then be able to go somewhere to relax, such as to the outside area, was great. This is even better when you consider how vast and different the cosplayers were and their many meets gave you the opportunity to see groups of people appreciating and enjoying their fandoms.

Moreover, what was enjoyable at MCM Comic Con May 2016 was that there is a variety of guest that appeared. These included John Noble (Elementary); Jeremy Shada (Adventure Time); Josef Altin, Hannah Waddingham and Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Game of Thrones); Lotte Verbeek (Agent Carter); and Willa Holland and Katrina Law (Arrow). With the privilege of gaining a press pass to the weekend, I was able to see the various guests and I cannot stress how amazing it was to meet them in the roundtable interviews, recordings of which you can enjoy below! These especially provide a greater understanding of how the individuals act and how they come to understand the characters they play.

With such a large number of people there was inevitably a significant amount of rubbish left at the end of each day. However, this was partly due to the restricted space due to security measures that meant that only those who had tickets were allowed entry and a minor issue that can easily be resolved in time for the next convention.

This event is something that anyone who likes comic books, video games, anime or just having a good time should attend. I had an astounding time at this year’s May MCM Comic Con and am looking forward to the next one!

Check back here for links to interviews from the event!

GIG REVIEW: Majid Jordan @ Heaven Club, 30/05/16

Canadian R&B duo Majid Jordan started their European tour with a sold out event at the popular night club Heaven in London, in which they showed how amazing they were in both their performance and crow pleasing aura. This was clearly shown in their ability to keep fans moving, cheering and active for the time they were on stage (even with a range of female clothing being launched at them, much to this reporter’s surprise.)

Perhaps the most interesting factor of the event was the musical duo taking musical cues not just from the R&B scene but elements from trance, soul and reggae. With a hint of newretrowave design (with regards to the background), it created a very unique musical backdrop that plays to the strengths of Jordan Ullman’s producing skills and Majid Al Maskati’s lyrical skill. As such, there was an interesting mix of some very different style of music, along with Majid’s ability to keep the crowd active throughout the performance. This not just with the skill of the crowd singing, but also by their willingness to record the event, clap when required and even request an encore to end the night.

Perhaps the only flaw I could have is that at certain points Majid seemed to a bit reserved, but this may have been due to technical difficulties or just nerves for this first night on his European tour. However, these were minor issues that would not significantly take away from an amazing event showcasing perhaps some of the most interesting musicians to come out of the R&B scene for some time. The next stop on their tour is Manchester on the 31st of May, followed by Paris on the 2nd. Nevertheless, if this show was any indication of the duo’s skill then the following events will only get better and could truly bring an interesting and unique style of R&B.

Review by Syed Aadil Ali

ALBUM REVIEW: Radiohead – 'A Moon Shaped Pool'

Radiohead did it again and completely blew me away with their new album. After 5 years of over and over listening to The King of Limbs (2011) and other Radiohead masterpieces, A Moon Shaped Pool, their 9th studio album dropped on the 8th of May. After locking myself into a dark room for several days in order to fully enjoy and let the album grow on me, I finally feel confident about writing a review worthy of the album.

A Moon Shaped Pool is introduced with its first released single ‘Burn The Witch’ which starts with a glimmering guitar and Thom Yorke’s dream like voice, letting you drift into another dimension, higher and higher, the more sharp the violins and guitar become. This dream though escalates into a shivery nightmare in the last seconds and Yorke’s voice and its instruments literally pierce through your head in horror. A masterpiece which sets the atmosphere for the following songs. The next song’s title ‘Daydreaming’ perfectly describes its tone, transporting you onto a summer grass field with Yorke’s melancholic voice shimmering in the background. This daydream though doesn’t turn into a nightmare,  but rather stays continuously dreamy and fantastic, ending with electronic sounds metaphorically letting you carry on trance like into Radiohead’s next song ‘Decks Dark’. The dreamy atmosphere is kept through the piano theme but mixed with choir voices rising up mid song, but is finally broken when the drums and bass kick in, transforming the song into a chilled rock song. ‘Desert Island Disk’ is among the less distinctive numbers (I hate myself for writing that). The song is clear and comprehensible, with less decorative bells and pianos in the background, making it more ordinary and less memorable.

‘Ful Stop’, a song that Radiohead played in their live performances in 2012 for the first time, was massively enhanced for the record. The live version suffered from its echoing sound mixing it into a chaotic blur of beats, whereas the new studio version with its threatening bass and wafting synthesiser builds up, claustrophobic and oppressive, marking the album’s height and a cut for the first part’s dream. ‘Glass Eyes’ then starts with less (positive) chaos in the background, being a very regular (a word that doesn’t describe Radiohead at all) quiet song, with its violins and piano. ‘Identikit’ is first a fairly tidy song with its rhythmic guitars and drums accompanied by Yorke’s smoothing voice, echoing in the background. But the ordinary is broken midway through a choir and later again by a guitar solo by Johnny Greenwood, which more sounds like a Nokia ringtone from the early 2000s (I also hate myself for writing that). This song is the first where I think that Radiohead would have been better off to keep to the simple. The next song is one of my favourites on A Moon Shaped Pool as ‘The Numbers’ embodies Radiohead’s artistic diversity in just over 5 minutes, starting off as a Jazz influenced piano dominated number, transferring into an atmospheric and room filling state of trance and over to a melancholic ballad accompanied by violins escalating in a emotional breakdown, setting me off rollercoaster of feelings.

Thankfully ‘Present Tense’ brought me out of the hole of emotions by being more uplifting again, letting you sway along to the melodic guitars and mysterious choir. ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier…‘s course feels similar to the album’s title, slowly closing the circular Moon Shaped Pool of light dreams and oppressive nightmares filled with emotions of fear, hope and melancholy. The album is perfected by ‘True Love Waits’, which was first played back in 1995 by Yorke with his acoustic guitar. Now, the song seems to be in his final version, finalising A Moon Shaped Pool after 21 years, because true love waits. The song stands at the end of the album as a summary of the evolution of Radiohead, clearly separated in its theme with less intrusive instruments and just pure uncovered beauty.

A Moon Shaped Pool is an album that is united by hustle in the background, the combination of bells, pianos, guitars, drums and synthesiser, creating the most melodic and quiet album of Radiohead’s career. The album stands for the uniqueness of its creators, but at the same time as a sequel to its predecessor. At the end of the emotional rollercoaster, I realise that I didn’t pay attention to any of the lyrics, but to be honest, Yorke could sing about bringing out the garbage and his voice would still put me in trance into fantasy world, creating the wildest pictures in my head (even though Radiohead’s lyrics are always full of meaning and poetic genius).

Review by Carolin Wolfsdorf

Game Review: Stellaris

Background

Stellaris is the newest real time strategy game from Paradox Interactive, the same company that have made amazing classics such as Europa Universal and Crusader Kings. Whereas Europa and Crusader kings focused on the earth and the conquest, politics and trade between factions, Stellaris instead takes you on a bizarre and amazing adventure as you build not just a global empire but a empire that spans the length of the galaxy. I will say that the feeling of space is truly immersive but the game suffers from being a bit simpler than other games they have developed.

Story

Like other Paradox Interactive games, there is not so much a linear story but more one you create. At the start of the game you pick your race and its traits, all of which dictate how you react and interact with situations and species. In my first playthrough I played as the ‘Imperium of Man’ with my first leader being Paul Atreides (It was a role play of Warhammer 40k and Dune). As such I started on a desert planet and so I expanded to have a considerable portion of the galaxy with some very fancy and very powerful units able to crush pretty much any faction. However, what is interesting is that at certain points crises can appear – by having a rebellion of AI like Matrix or Dune, or have a quasi Tyranids or Zerg style race invaded and cause all kinds of havoc. What I am interested in is the possibility of new mods being developed as I would like to see a Mass Effect style Mod where instead of having the Tyranids invading instead you have the reapers, perhaps even a full Dune conversion mod.

Mechanics

The mechanics of the game are largely similar to previous Paradox Interactive games but with a different focus. You have three core resources to focus on: energy credits, your basic cash gained by building power plants; minerals for building creation; and influence for political usage. It’s from these resources that you will make trade deals or go to war, since he who controls these resources controls the known universe.

Another feature is the ship combat, in which you build and customise ships to your preference. So for example a you may prefer to build hard hitting slow but powerful battleships but have a nimble Cruiser against certain enemies. Furthermore, you can change and upgrade the weapons in accordance to new technology and development in your resources gathering as in the early game you will often use cheaper easier to mass produce units but with the issue of them causing a major drain on your resource gathering.

Another major feature of Stellaris is that it is an easy to learn, hard to master game, as Stellaris is the simplest of games compared to Europa Universal or Crusader Kings. Perhaps this was a design choice but this make it a clear comparison to Civilisation. The tech tree, the focus on building certain buildings on certain spaces, and the constant political dealings felt more like Civ than any of the other Paradox Interactive games. Perhaps this something that will become less of the case and make Stellaris its own beast over time but at the point of review it somewhat weakness the game as a whole.

The last major feature I will discuss in the technolgy element, the reason I am not going any further is because the game is so vast and deep that it would take at least three pages to attempt to break down. However, my biggest concern for Stellaris is the technology system. In other games, you would have a simple tech tree that would you would need to gain access to certain technology. Instead Stellaris has an odd system where you sort of gamble and guess and pick more in the moment than planning ahead. This does lead to having to pick and choose certain technology over others but this could also mean you could close out certain technology unknowingly. Furthermore, you would not know when this would happen as there is not clear tree but rather a collection of individual choices that don’t work to the games strength.

Sound Design

The sound design, in particular the music for the game, is amazing. The main take away from the sound design for Stellaris is the musical cues, as you have this mixture of music that draws wide inspiration: from Interstellar with the use of organs, to Mass Effect with certain synthesizer usage, even X files seems to get a reference (then again this could be from my interaction and abduction of primitive alien races). This is perhaps one of the biggest strengths for an RTS game like Stellaris as often you are spending hours upon hours building your empire and you want music that helps you forget the minutes as you tick away building that new ship or colonising that new area. As such having such a broad variety of music references helps build that feeling of building a grand space empire, more so than games such as Civilisation. Hearing Battle for Supremacy play as you launch wave after wave in a desperate attempt to hold onto your closest colony or hearing Spatial Lullaby (a track that reminds me of Dune) play while you have a few moments of peace is something that helps build the world of Stellaris and kept me playing for hours at a time.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Stellaris aims to help build a new IP for Paradox Interactive and does an amazing of this, however the flaws with regards to its simplistic design and a rather confusing technology system give it an 8 out of 10.  I would still recommend the game to be played as, although others would compare it to Master of the Orion, Stellaris is its own beast and is something I look forward to keeping an eye on as new updates and developments are made for the game.

Score

8 out of 10

Battlefleet Gothic: Armada
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada

Game Review: Battlefleet Gothic: Armada

Background

Warhammer 40k video games have been much like the lore in the franchise: troubled, turbulent but amazingly deep to learn about. Many would argue it was not until the Dawn of War 1 that Warhammer truly showed its full potential, with amazing sound design – a humanising element to the most inhuman members of the Imperium of Man and the Space Marine. This began the Warhammer 40k video game franchise’s great crusade: with the subsequent expansion and sequels to Dawn of War it showed the great lore and gore style of the table top game. However, following the collapse of THQ leading to the franchise’s own Horus Hersey: the rights to Gameswork shop IP were no longer as strictly held by Relic with nearly all manner of games being made. Some were somewhat bad clones of their games, and others give hope to new ideas that can help expand the lore and potential of the franchise. Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, I am proud to say, is one of the best games to come out from the Warhammer 40k franchise post-THQ and, given enough time and possibly expansion and squeals, it can perhaps become one of the best games of its type and class. The game focuses on a rather overlooked element of the tabletop games but an important one to the lore: the imperial navy. Furthermore, I have had limited experience with space real time strategy games (RTS), with my main experience being from Homeworld and Star Wars: Empire at War as the market for space RTS is somewhat niche and I have often focused on the land side of RTS games and never really cared for space RTS due to the fact it felt weird and required a different style of thinking. However, from playing Battlefleet Gothic: Armada I have a renewed interest in trying and playing new space RTS games if they are done in a way that is somewhat similar to this game.

Story

The story of the game is one of the most fascinating elements as it takes inspiration from the old Battlefleet boardgame. In the game you take command of Admiral Spire, a newly promoted captain who fights to protect the gothic sector from one of the biggest villains of the Warhammer 40k universe, Abbadon the despoiler, as well as Eldar and Ork pirates. The events of the game take place in the lore in the Gothic Sector during the twelfth black crusade. What the game does well is its usage of painting like cutscenes and dialogue between and during missions, building the feeling of a true Warhammer game – nothing feels truly like a Warhammer game until you hear the Orks screaming ‘WARRGGH’ or the tainted foul legionaries attempting to sway you to chaos. I will not go too into depth on the story as it one that should be experienced in its full way and largely dependent on your skill as an admiral and your ability to think and act flexibly.

Mechanics

This game’s ability to make ships feel as big and weighty as they appear is done amazingly so in the Unreal engine 4. This is further supported by the importance of micro management, in which you have to quickly respond to a situation and focus on a ship at a given time. This is helped by the game making sure you balance your ships with a points allocation system as the higher the class the ship they less you can deploy. However, the issue with this idea is that for relative newcomers it requires a certain learning curve. As past RTS tactics such as turtling in which you hold a portion of the map will not work in this game you have to think differently to how you would assume a land RTS match would work. Nevertheless, the game rarely gives you a ‘game over’ screen, instead adapting to your failings and as such the game becomes harder and harder – due to your inability as an admiral, you are to the blame for the game ramping up which I love. This may detract people but this fits well into the Warhammer universe, of the desperation of imperium of man, of always being at war: in which any battle could be the one that leads to your downfall.

The other main feature of the game is the ship to ship combat, with each race having a certain focus on a certain skill – Eldar ships focusing on speed, Orks focusing on close ranger combat and Imperium of Man and Chaos ships focusing on ranged combat. Each require a different way to approach the game with different tactics. For example, you would want to avoid ramming Ork ships if you’re playing as Chaos but you also want to avoid chancing Eldar ships since they can cut away your defences with speed and swiftness. How this plays out in the game world is that you will often have certain abilities, such as speeding up your ship, launching torpedos or choosing which side to focus your attacks on, which require you to focus on micro management to ensure you able to win the battle using tactical intelligence. Again, this may prove to something of a learning curve to new players but this is rather easy as the main campaign teaches you the basics of ship to ship combat.

The last major mechanic I will discuss is the customisation of the fleets, as each fleet changes depending on how you use it and how you level up. For example, you may want one light cruiser as your scanner and bait with another cruiser being your tank, meaning that you may want to attach torpedoes to disable enemy engines or elements in their ship. Perhaps the only major flaw is that you cannot paint and mod new colours and logos, as with the Dawn of War franchise, and it would be nice to possibly introduce something like this or allow for a mod kit. It would be amazing to see new races being added, such as the Necrons who could be this slow tank style race or the sister of battle whose love of flame based weapons means they could be faster than the average imperial ship but still prefer to close in to combat with flame based weapons. It would be interesting to hear new factions being introduced with future expansions or sequels since it would be a shame to end this brave new step in Warhammer games.

Sound Design

The sound design in the game is something that worthy of being mentioned, even though the music is largely limited. Despite seemingly limited resources, Tindalos Interactive do an amazing job in building the style of score that is fitting for the Warhammer 40k. A mix of choir but dread, sort of classical but with more fear built in. It may not be as memorable as the Dawn of War soundtracks, with industry legends such as Jeremy Soule  and Inon Zur, nevertheless, I have great expectation that with a greater budget the game could create an even greater musical score.

The last major point I would like to discuss is the actual sounds in the game, as the voice work helps build that feeling of Warhammer 40k. Hearing the Ork ship horn bellow as it prepares to ram for you, hearing your ships fire its broadside rounds, and hearing other ships explode helps create a meaty impactful sound which perfectly fits the grim darkness of the Warhammer 40k universe.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada stands as a beacon of light in Warhammer 40k games’ current bleak future: even though Dawn of War 3 was recently announced, we have yet to receive any clear idea what kind of game it will be. Nevertheless, I look forward to future content for Battlefleet Gothic, perhaps the addition of new factions such as the Necrons would be interesting to change the balance and style of the game. Something I would love is finding a way to have space and land battles on a grand scale, perhaps working with Relic to blend Dawn of War 3 land combat with the grand space combat of Battlefleet Gothic. However, the minor but rather telling issues of the game are something that can be improved upon with more experience and as such I look forward to future entries in the Battlefleet Gothic franchise.

Score

8 out of 10