Monday, 16 January 2017

Live at Alexandra Palace- an album review (partly)

Now as anyone who knows me, reads my blog or is unfortunate enough to follow me on Twitter, they will know how I feel about the St Albans quartet, Enter Shikari.

To say that I am a fan would be more than apt, having been lucky enough to see them ten times in the past ten years would be testament to that. One of the shows in particular will sit with me for the rest of my life- Alexandra Palace on February 27, 2016.

My friend James and I traveled up to the bright lights of London town to see this amazing band play such a fantastic venue, a night that I thought I would never be able to relive again, how wrong I was.

It was announced that a live CD of the show would be up for sale at the end of the year, just in time for Christmas. When I saw this I was overjoyed by the aspect of being able to listen to the best show I have ever seen all over again. What's more was there were a number of signed editions of the album but only for the first however many pre-orders. My heart sank a bit but at the end of the day the important thing was buying the album.

Weeks passed and I still didn't pull my finger out and buy it, probably because I wanted to get all my Christmas present shopping done for my family and girlfriend (understandably).

Then Christmas day came, I had finished stuffing my face with turkey and drinking copious amounts of gin before setting off to my partner's house for the evening. When I got there I was handed a selection of presents to open and what was the first one I unwrapped? Only a signed version of the Ally Pally CD, I was speechless. Beth Cole, you are a star!

So now the album.....

The sound of the crowd screaming at the start of the first track, Intro/Solidarity, took me right back to the night, standing near the front and seeing the powerhouse of Shikari storm the stage. Playing songs that I hadn't seen for years, the likes of Solidarity, The Jester, Arguing With Thermometers and No Sleep Tonight, gave me that warm nostalgic feel.

Anyone who has seen Enter Shikari live knows that they are in their element, getting the crowd pumping at each song, jumping from strength to strength. I reviewed the Mindsweep show in Camden a year previously and the enjoyment I got from each show didn't falter, didn't slow, it was as if each performance built up more respect for the band.

The album is nothing short of a triumph, amalgamating the passion from the crowd and the energetic and down-right mental performance by the lads.

Each track runs into the other with a bit of cheeky banter between, messages of love and togetherness and even a wonderfully unsuspected cover of Angels by Robbie Williams (what would Robbie Williams do?)

Other gold nuggets of musical mastery come in the form of the fantastic Hospitality remixes, Danny Byrd's mix of There's A Price On Your Head and the Reso remix of Anesthetist pump some electronic mayhem into the set, blaring through the speakers like a tour de force of drum and bass mastery.

The only downside (literally the ONLY downside) is the lack of a DVD feature, but anyone buying the album would've already known this as there were technical errors which made it an impossibility. Anyone wanting to have a peek at the glorious carnage that was Ally Pally can find the performance of Redshift on their useful video streaming channel Youtube...and I would heavily recommend it.

All in all, another perfect example of how Enter Shikari are one of the best live bands walking this earth.

Till next time!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Hoodwinker by Enter Shikari.

Hoodwinker by Enter Shikari.

Released October 9 2016.

First featured on the BBC Radio 1 Rock Show with Daniel P Carter.

Second single released post-Mindsweep.

Length: 3:32.

Overall rating: 5/5.

Now available on iTunes for purchase and for streaming on Youtube and Spotify.

Nearing the two year mark since The Mindsweep hit the hearts and minds of Shikari fans across the globe, the St Albans quartet, Enter Shikari have once again smashed their way through the eardrums of thousands of loyal followers.

With the surprise announcement of Hoodwinker being broadcast across the spectrum of social media during the dwindling hours of Sunday (October 9) evening, fans' reactions (including my own) was nothing short of pure, unadulterated ecstasy. Whilst I was sitting at Fratton train station I was perusing my Facebook news feed to find the announcement of Hoodwinker and the news that it would be premiering on the Radio 1 show between the hours of 7pm-9pm that very evening.

Not since the days before Redshift was unleashed on the music world have I felt such joy at the prospect of a new single by any band I loyally follow.

Then came the moment of relief, when Mr Carter started an intro with Arguing with Thermometers in the background. This was it, this was the moment.

The heavy intro kicked in with the growlings of one Mr Rou Reynolds adding another darker layer to the song. I was already hooked. Enter Shikari, in my opinion, are the only band that can start a song by kicking you in the teeth with their hardcore drumming (courtesy of Lord Rolfy) and their intense guitar and bass lines and riffs (here's looking at you Rory C and Chris Batten) to follow it up with anthemic choruses powerful political lyrics. Hoodwinker is no different.

The only song that I could even begin to liken it to would be Arguing with Thermometers, but even then it is a completely different sound. The main thing with Enter Shikari is that they are a band that can shock you at every step, delivering a unique direction in nearly every song they put to the page. The message still stands the same, the Albans boys are not slowing down any time soon, and after the announcement of the Live at Ally Pally bootleg (for which I was at the front for the entirety of the show) fans of Shikari can be rest assured that there will be more material and innovation, more sell-out shows in huge arenas, more delight and joy to follow over the coming year(s).

Roll on the new album!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Game of Thrones- Series 6 (thus far) Spoiler-filled.

SO anyone who knows me is aware that I am a big fan of the world George RR Martin has created. Westeros is by far one of the most interesting fictional lands ever created. From The Wall to Dorne, I find myself investing a lot of time and emotion into this creation.

A number of people who watch the show are fans of the book and feel like it doesn't quite hold the candle to the original text. I am an admirer of both mediums as separate entities.

Whilst the TV show, Game of Thrones, uses the majority of the story plots and characters as the book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, I find each to have their own identity.

So what can be said for the most recent installment of the behemoth which is the TV series. Only being four episodes in it would usually be too hard to tell, but as this ship enters uncharted waters (now the TV show has surpassed and deviated from the book) we have started to get into the real beginning of the end.

So far series 6 has given fans some of the most stand-out moments of the whole run time to date, in my belief anyway.

Now before I continue I must say that there will be spoilers from here on out. Just remember, the internet is dark and full of terrors.

In the first episode in Series 6 we have already been shown Sansa and Reek  Theon being saved by Brienne of Tarth, about bloody time too! We are finally getting to see a Stark find themselves in a spot of good fortune (but more on that later). We are also shown the struggle for Mereen, something that was bound to happen once Daenerys was whisked away by the Khalesaar. But this gives us more time to enjoy the laddish banter between Varys and Tyrion (two of the best characters in my opinion).

Things pick up nicely from the shit-shock-horror which was the series 5 finale. And it really begins to unfold once the closing credits for episode 2 make their way across the screen.

We find Arya blind and begging in the streets of Bravos, playing the game of truth with the unbearable Waif (easily one of my least favourite characters along with Olly). After being hit by sticks and insisting that "A girl has no name" Arya is finally welcomed back through the doors of the House of Black and White by Jacquen Ha'agar, the Faceless Badman.

The main point behind this series is the resurrection of Jon Snow, something which wasn't saved and dragged out like a series of The Walking Dead. The return of the Lord Commander, Bastard of Winterfell, savior of the Freemen and all-round hero Jon Snow means a few things for the series. As soon as he was revived I, probably with hundreds of others, knew this would mean the end of his Watch, you know, as death frees a member of the Night's Watch from their vows. After waking from his long slumber Snow decides that this will in fact be the end, but not before taking all of the traitors with him. A shocking but powerful scene which sees Jon hang Ser Alliser, Olly and other members of the mutiny leaving an uneasy feeling deep inside, knowing this was the right thing to do but seeing Jon's reaction to this decision. After all, death can change a man.

The long wait for members of the Stark clan to be reunited was finally witnessed by audiences around the world with Sansa, escorted by Brienne and Pod to Castle Black, finally finds herself in the company of her long lost half-brother. This was a feel good moment which left a smile on my face...but not for long as another bastard in the North has seemingly gained a rather large piece of leverage.

Ramsay Bolton, remember? The torturer, sadistic, flay-master extraordinaire? Well he is cranking the crazy up to 22 with the killing of his kin, first his father then his newly born step brother and mother making him the 'Warden of the North and Lord of Winterfell'. As a welcoming present to the new role a member of the Umber family presents Ramsay with a shocking surprise in the form of the head of a Direwolf, a wildling and son of Eddard Stark himself Rikon. A truly astonishing move.

As is tradition with Game of Thrones all of the storylines seem to drive forwards either slowly or so quick you could blink and miss an important narrative twist. So far the slower paced scenes are set in Mereen with Tyrion and Varys as well as the painfully uneventful Kings Landing sequences, only until the Mountain starts crushing people like he did poor old Obi Martell will things truly kick off.

With the absence of Bran and our lovable giant Hodor from series 5, it felt only too right for the series to have a large focus on beyond the Wall. This is welcome in my opinion as we are starting to see Bran's true potential shine through with help from the Three Eyed Raven. Now....if you are a GoT fan you will know where this paragraph is leading....

So we come to "The Door"....truly one of the saddest, most heartbreaking and down-right depressing episodes that Game of Thrones has delivered.

We finally got to find out a bit more about the Children of the Forest. A race of magical beings that reside North of the Wall and who are as old as Westeros itself. During one of Bran's greenseeing visions we encounter Leaf, one of the Children who assisted Bran into the Weirwood tree at the end of series 4, pushing what seems to be either Dragonglass or bark from the Weirdwood into the chest of a man causing him to transform into the frosty bastard Night's King. What a revelation that was. Oh but the ride doesn't stop there.

Bran, bored from sleeplessness, goes into a vision without guidance from the Three Eyed Raven where he sees the army of the undead, lead by the four main Night's Soldiers. Within seconds the Night's King grabs Bran, still in the vision, leaving a mark on his arm once he wakes. This can only mean one thing, disaster. The Wight's attack the Weirwood, slaughtering all of the Children whilst Bran, Meera and Hodor make their escape, Summer on the other hand sacrifices herself to save her Stark master.

As Bran is currently having a vision whilst these events unfold he can only hear Meera shouting as if it was a whisper. After the Three Eyed Raven tells Bran to warg into Hodor to save himself, the warged Hodor pulls the Branmobile down a long hallway with Meera in tow being chased by hundreds of the undead. Cue Leaf sacrificing herself to save them, the death of the Three Eyed Raven and a struggle to open...the door...the real tragedy unfolds.

Everyone who is anyone who knows Hodor knows his vocabulary is limited to..well..Hodor. During the visions Bran has of Winterfell long before the events of Robert's Rebellion we meet Wyllis (Hodor) a simple stable boy who can definitely speak more than his own 'name'. As the warged Hodor opens the door from the Weirwood passage and the three escape Meera shouts at him to hold...the...door. These shouts can be heard by a young Wyllis in Bran's vision causing him to have a fit and repeatedly shout "Hold the door" as Bran looks on solemnly. As  poor Wyllis keeps shouting "Hold the door", whilst in the present Hodor is being scratched, stabbed and attacked whilst holding the door, young Wyllis' words slur to become just one word....and that is how our poor, simple, gentle giant Hodor began and one fell swoop one of the only innocent characters in the whole series is no longer. And that is the tragedy which is Game of Thrones, as quoted earlier in the episode "Do you think death comes just for the wicked?"

Friday, 20 May 2016

Review: X-Men: Apocalypse. It's the end of the world as we know it.

AS trilogies go it is rare to find a third installment which outshines the previous two. This can be for many reasons such as story development, introducing too many new characters or even something as simple as changing the theme.

Unfortunately, X Men: Apocalypse suffers from all three of these points. Don't get me wrong, it isn't Last Stand level of poor, but marks a disappointing ending to what could've been the perfect X Men trilogy.

With First Class and Days of Future Past the film was set during large events in America's history such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of JFK, but Apocalypse pulls the mutants away from this clever plot structure to focus on one of the team's most formidable enemies, the main man himself, Apocalypse.

Starting with the birth of Oscar Isaac's iteration of the big bad during the times of Ancient Egypt, the film throws you straight into the history of the supposed 'God'. Whilst this is quite an exciting prospect, having such a powerful antagonist for our friendly X Men to battle with, it just feels like it has either been done too late or completely rushed.

When we arrive in the 80's we find ourselves meeting a group of familiar faces, well characters rebooted with younger actors. This was one of the most exciting prospects for me as Nightcrawler has to be my favourite character from the comics (with the exception of Deadpool, but I shall touch on that later). In fact, the rebooting of the characters is the strongest part of this movie, Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones' Sansa Stark) plays a struggling Jean Grey quite well and Tye Sheridan as a teenage angsty Cyclops is entertaining.

One of the main elements of this film is Apocalypse gathering his Four Horsemen, in fact that probably lasts longer than the end spectacle. Magneto, Archangel, Psylocke and Storm fill the roles after being promised a place in the new world and having their powers cranked up to 11. But as Horsemen, they don't really seem to do much, there is the fight at the end of the film but very little gravity to bring these characters down to Earth.

Going into this film you can expect a lot of flashbacks to the previous installments, well more First Class than DoFP, supposedly to bring the trilogy into a full circle, but even that sadly falls short of the mark.

The one element carried on from DoFP is the hilarious Quicksilver (fantastically played by Evan Peters) who once again has the most entertaining scene in the film to the tune of Eurythmics. A real stand-out moment in what can be described as an average superhero film.

In the film there are certain aspects which try and stay fairly loyal to the comics, one moment stands out in particular, and that is the cameo from the wild one himself Wolverine. His scene in the film is a true depiction of what Wolverine is supposed to be, feral and violent. I am sure the increased amount of violence was used after the success of the bloody, sweary Deadpool film and as the latest Wolverine film has been given an R rating (probably a 15 in the UK) it wouldn't be a surprise that Fox are trying to emulate the blockbusting success of the Merc with a mouth. And that doesn't bother me in the slightest as Wolverine was always supposed to be a much more violent character.

Overall X Men: Apocalypse has its merits, but still falls short of the mark when the overall trilogy is concerned. For die hard fans this film will probably satisfy their needs, but for me I can honestly say that I was not convinced.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Captain America: Civil War (aka Avengers 2.5)

So I have just returned from watching the latest installment of the gargantuan cinematic behemoth which is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What more can I say about the Marvel cinema experience other than its ambition has become its own worst enemy, a victim of its own success. I shall just go ahead and say, I did enjoy the film, for all of its flaws and all of its perfections.

While some of the many entries into the comic book adaptions have been good, for the most part, I have started to feel like it has become a constant loop where the only winners will be Disney (and hardcore fans of course).

Firstly, the spectacle of having all of these heroes on screen (the Avengers Assemble boasting six of the earth's mightiest heroes where Civil War showcasing a further three, but more on that later) is something to behold. Other films haven't been as lucky to get away with such an ideal (see X-Men 3 Last Stand and Batman Vs Superman) but here, in the complete nerdgasm which is Civil War, it works for the most part.

New entries into this latest super-flick include the UK's own Tom Holland as the truly fantastic adaption of Spiderman, a spectacular and refreshing interpretation of our friendly neighborhood web-slinger, and the wonderfully acted Black Panther, portrayed by Chadwick Boseman. These heroes add something to the film that an Avengers film has been yearning for, not to say that the other actors don't fill in the screen time as well. Paul Rudd as Ant Man surpasses his stand-alone film, which I still find irritatingly disappointing.

The story, whilst a bit lackluster overall, does keep you enthralled. Since Avengers Assemble the idea of seeing these iconic characters battle it out has always been something of dreams, but in Civil War it blasts those early-in-the-series scenes out of the water. Seeing RDJ fighting Chris Evans is grand to say the least, no matter which side you take (personally #TeamIronMan all the way). Each has their own motives and their own way to make the audience take a side.

I do not wish to ruin any massive plot points, as someone who detests spoiler-filled reviews I fully apply myself to keeping the secrets. But, wherein lies continue, the bad guy- an overly ambitious Zemo (not Baron.....just no) that continues to show that Marvel cannot seem to get a bad guy right, apart from the enigmatic Ultron in what was overall a disappointing film. Zemo doesn't play much purpose in the film at all, same can be said for the usually great Martin Freeman (hopefully a character that will have a massive development further down the line).

Now, Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, the architect of all the heroes' pain..sorry I almost got myself mixed up with Christoph Waltz in Spectre, he is essentially the same as he was at the end of the second Captain America, a man who has had his head messed about with by a higher power which results in a lot of Jason Bourne-type shit. Whilst his part is much bigger, and holds a pivotal role in this film, he is still the same teenage-angsty sort of character, with more scowl than 100 Batmans. In all fairness he needed to be for the conflict to work in the first place, and Sebastian Stan nailed the Winter Soldier.

Now I am well aware this is my opinion and, like the saying goes, opinions are like assholes, everyone's got one. But I did enjoy the two hours of crazy, CGI-belted action which was Civil War. With all of its peaks and all of its troughs I did think it was an acceptable addition to the MCU line-up. I am just saddened that nothing will be able to surpass Avengers Assemble, point and case is Loki, the best onscreen Marvel baddie ever. It seems no other Marvel film will ever encapsulate the essence of a decent antagonist, we shall just have to wait and see what Thanos holds in store (hopefully something other than an Infinity Gauntlet).

Captain America: Civil War- 4/5 (and that is me being generous).

I shall leave you with a thought- in a world full of superhero movies and reboots, where will blockbusters end up? Surely, just surely, the superhero trend will die out. 

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Star Wars Episode VII: Return of the Franchise (Spoiler Free)

The winter of 2015 has been amazing for the box office, granted this whole year has been inundated with blockbusters with Jurassic World, Spectre, Mad Max and Avengers: Age of Ultron (just to name a few).

But all pale in comparison when it comes to December 18th- the day that my inner child  woke up from his long- standing Carbonite sleep, grabbed his lightsaber and jumped in his X-Wing.

Star Wars made a truly spectacular comeback, with JJ Abrams at the helm to lead this latest installment of the franchise in a box office smash hit. With a great ensemble of actors, another score for John Williams and a hoard of practical effects, this episode is ready to propel the new trilogy into lightspeed.

At first, like many fans of Star Wars, I was rather skeptical about the new film. Where would it go from Jedi? Would it just be a repeat of the godawful prequels? Why would anyone take the weight of this behemoth of a film series? Well Phantom Menace this ain't.

From the moment that the opening sprawl hit the screen and the bombastic theme tune rang through my ears, I could feel myself smiling, excitement rushing through me.

There will be no spoilers in this post so no need to worry.

Before I go any further I just want to focus on the cast. The addition of Rey (Daisy Ridley) Finn (John Boyega) and Kylo Renn (Adam Driver) as well as the fully functioning, not-CGI BB-8, is something that couldn't of been any better. The acting and characters pretty much make the film, for a new generation of Star Wars fans, the casting was spot on. Oh and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaacs), for the short time he actually features in the film (hopefully with more to follow over the next two).

The opening scene set the mood instantly, introducing the audience to the fresh faces that are now going to be on the covers of every film magazine for the next 4 years.

30 years after a group of Care Bears defeat a galactic evil empire, the galaxy has a new threat in the form of......well, essentially the Empire once again, but with a more of a Nazi-like name- The First Order. Every cast member from episode six that reappears have inescapably aged, some better than others, with the comforting fact that Peter Mayhew can still hold his own as Chewie.

Throw in mysterious figures, strange new aliens and some fantastic cameos, The Force Awakens is the Star Wars film that fans have been waiting for ever since Return of the Jedi was released.

The new version of the Death Star is also something quite spectacular. A friend and myself argued quite bitterly over the originality of the plot, but as the old saying goes 'If it ain't broke don't fix it'.

More fool George Lucas for multiple reasons, for speaking out against the film, for making the hideous prequels and tarnishing the franchise he created in order to make a quick buck.

Let us wait until Episode VIII!!!!

May the Force be with you.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Spectre- The real Bond, with real threats. (spoilers)

The year of 2015 has already seen the release of many blockbusters. From The Avengers: Age Of Ultron to The Man From U.N.C.L.E, but these were all just seat-warmers for the real moments of visual storytelling.

With the Winter holding host to two major, and I mean MAJOR, comebacks in the form of The Force and drinking Martinis with your favourite suit on, I thought I would spend my evening at my local cinema seeing what Sam Mendes had put together for his second 007 outing. I was not disappointed.

Bond's previous mission was nothing short of spectacular, Skyfall was the start of a throwback to the golden days of British espionage. The DB5, the return of Q and his lovely little pot of secrets, the sheer beauty of what James Bond could be (especially after the hideous Quantum of Solace).

Let me set the scene for you.

The opening shot establishes the truly wonderful setting, The Day of the Dead in Mexico, almost a cinematic triumph from the start. The opening scene is captured almost seamlessly with a single shot, following a white suit cladded gent making his way through the crowd of devilishly dressed festival goers. But he isn't the man himself, just a poor, unknowing target. After following a couple up through the streets and up to a hotel room, a mask gets removed to reveal the suave spy himself, James Bond. Cue explosions, a chase through the streets of Mexico and maybe what has to be the most exciting, daring and truly spectacular Bond opening scene to ever be conceived.

With the explosive intro out the way then enters the sexy opening credits that the 007 franchise has always exhibited. Unfortunately with a very lack luster theme song (sorry Sam Smith, but maybe save the vocals for the next Bridget Jones or something?) but that is probably where the mediocrity ends.

After the events of the last film MI6 is undergoing some dramatic changes, with Mallory as the new M, and the threat of the 00 program being halted, espionage is looking to be dragged "out of the shadows", as was the theme in Skyfall. With C introducing himself to Bond, cue some delightfully sarcastic quips from Craig, the audience is made aware of the coming changes that are threatening Bond's way of life.

Poor old James doesn't have long before he is grounded, not to leave London, and having a tracer placed on him by the fresh faced and mustache free Q (reminiscing back to the Cleese days). But the main problem seems to be that Bond is hiding something. Throw in some new gadgets, and I mean throwback James Bond gadgets (wont say what) and the beautiful Aston Martin DB10, and a message from the late, great M (Judi Dench) we suddenly realise that this Mexico mission wasn't an AWOL mission, it was a request.

Now I will leave some elements to you to find out for yourselves..........

The bad guys in Spectre are probably the highlight, a fierce and almost mute Mr Hinx (a brutal and gigantic Dave Bautista) and the menacing head of the shadowy organisation Frans Oberhauser (an always amazing Christoph Waltz) make the main man sweat. In my opinion a hero is only as good as his enemies, and boy, the enemies are what you would want from a Bond film. Think of these two as Jaws and..........ahhhhhh I shouldn't even begin these comparisons otherwise I could go on forever.

 A return of some familiar faces put Bond on the path to some excellent set pieces, including but not limited to 007 trying to take down a convoy of cars using a biplane. Even more familiar faces crop up that link Craig's films all together to become full circle, and I think that was what Mendez was aiming to do. The fact the two most upsetting words, sorry, I am trying not to cry, Vesper Lynd are muttered, shown and implied, means that heartbreaks are guaranteed.


There was a little rumour circulating the internet a few months before the release of this behemoth of a film, relating to a real identity of the big bad, the "architect of all Bond's pain" being none other than the Dr Evil-inspiring, white cat stroking, jibby eyed toting, mastermind that is Blofeld himself.

And if you believed it or not, it still came as a massive, jaw-dropping moment that will haunt me forever. When you see that furry little shit scampering around Bond's feet when he is............ah I have already spoiled the big twist, "strapped" to a real, evil, and Bond-esque torture chair, you know that this man is not to be messed with. Bond's big nemesis has finally made it to the screen. You even get to see how the man gained his 'unsightly' scar (excuse the pun).

One big finale, some major plot points and the promise of a sequel later and that was Spectre, one of the most exciting and adrenaline fueled 007 films ever to grace the big screen.

5/5 and then some. GO WATCH NOW.