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Thundermentalist (PSN) Stopharage (XBL) (Sarrrf Larrndarrn)

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Washed Ashore (Of Dreams and Monsters Book 1)
Washed Ashore (Of Dreams and Monsters Book 1)
Price: £0.77

5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime seafaring tale of dread and woe., 24 Oct 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Hugely impressive achievement to create such an unsettling and foreboding sense of dread in the space of just 13 pages. Beautifully written throughout, with a fitting denouement. The plot and tone felt familiar to the majesty and artistry of Lovecraft without being hackneyed, and whilst being nuanced enough to demonstrate this new author's exciting talent.

Heartily looking forward to more of the same in the future.


Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare (Xbox 360)
Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare (Xbox 360)
Price: £19.85

40 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warning - THEY don't tell you that you need opposable thumbs to play this. DISGUSTING., 3 Mar 2014
If like me, you buy things without doing any research at all, you may think this game sucks.

When I bought this game, I didn't realise that I'd need Xbox Live. Despite the game saying so.
When I bought this game, I didn't realise that you need to put it in an Xbox. I thought it just played magically.
When I bought this game, it didn't warn me that my lack of opposable thumbs were going to prove somewhat detrimental.
When I bought this game, the need for electricity, a TV, a controller and a comfortable gaming chair were not spelled out to me.

I'm not stupid. I've only invested money in 13 pyramid schemes. And what money I lost on those endeavours, I have now made up tenfold by recently winning the Nigerian lottery. Can't wait for the money to be wired over. Might splash out on some natty trainer shoes.

Despite all this, I have now managed to play this game. It's rollicking good fun. An amusing romp which offers ample customisation, a range of classes and (currently) a balanced weapon and perk set. Maps are well designed, although there could be more of them. This is somewhat tempered by the size of the maps, which allow for multiple routes and approaches.

I got my copy for £22 and was happy with that as it's a title that has been developed with love and ingenuity.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 1, 2014 4:25 PM BST


Star Wars Kinect - Kinect Required (Xbox 360)
Star Wars Kinect - Kinect Required (Xbox 360)
Offered by GAMES CONSOLES BARGAIN
Price: £12.20

33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lose the Farce, Luke., 7 April 2012
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
First off, it's not an absolute stinker. Caveat Emptor: it's pretty dull, repetitive and uninspired.

The story mode is fairly boring. The characters are instantly forgettable and Chewbacca turns up sporting the embarrassed demeanour of a dog that's been caught eating the sausages off your plate. For an hour wielding an imaginary lightsaber was light-hearted fun. But then the same old combat, enemies and tasks are recycled. Pretty much every enemy can be killed by jumping over them and slashing them. This is great when you're confronted with robots repeatedly telling you 'You're under arrest'. Just jump over them and whack the bejesus out of them. At least that was the tactic, before I started to realise that it would take KInect 4/5 occasions of me jumping to recognise one of them. The tracking for jumping is poor. I thought maybe this might be my set-up but works fine with my other Kinect games and on t'internet seems like this is a common gripe. To split up the armed combat there are sections on a speederbike, which I enjoyed the first time. Despite Yoda telling me 5 minutes into a densely forested level to 'mind the trees'. I hadn't noticed them as I was too busy studying the extra-terrestrial foliage. Cheers Yoda, get back to sullying your inter-galactic reputation by doing some more PC World adverts. Using the force with my left hand would have been aided somewhat by a reticle on the screen rather than me having to wave the arm back and forth like a drunk man looking for a corner in a circular room. More damning was the fact that most combat missions are easily completed by jumping (repeatedly) whilst waving your lightsaber arm at the Kinect. Much like a hyperactive wand-wielding magician having a turn whilst jumping on a trampoline.

The story mode does offer up some fun space missions where you have to destroy a range of enemy vehicles. Again, the Kinect stops you getting any obvious feedback like a controller would, but these levels are enjoyable enough. The whole of the story mode took me about 2 and a half hours to complete.

The Duels mode allows you to fight some of those Star Wars characters you once cherished and now inwardly pity every time you see their heritage sullied by another George Lucas TV advert cash-in. This part is rubbish, just copying the duelling aspect from the story mode. Basically this is what happens most of the time. The baddie (for it is not you) attacks five times, you have to block, then after blocking successfully, you attack them, repeat ad infinitum. I despair that someone can make lightsaber battles so utterly snore-inducing.

The pod-racing is a reasonable stab at recreating the only decent part of The Phantom Menace. But, somewhat ironically, it suffers from a lack of force. Driving games excel when played with a decent controller, or steering wheel; that give you some type of feedback through vibrating. This is a major problem that Kinect will never be able to overcome and this limits the enjoyment of the pod-racing. It's a decent enough part of the game and will bring a few hours enjoyment, but not repeated playing.

Rancor Rampage allows you to play the role of the Rancor, rather than end up with one after a nasty night on the tiles. You basically run around and smash stuff up. No doubt if this game had been available last Summer, then the London Riots (et al) would never have occurred, as the miscreants of society would have been dispelling their anarchic juice swatting another jet-trooper out of the air and jumping up and down on jawas. It's a bit of harmless fun really. But like most of the other game modes, after an hour you'll be looking at the corners of your ceiling wondering why you'd never noticed that massive cobweb before.

And then, the dancing. Up until this point, I've done a pretty decent attempt at hiding my contempt for this cynical Star Wars cash-in. George Lucas must eat $100 bills like they're Rice Krispies if he really needs to keep farming the franchise out. I can imagine soon he's going to be pimping out Han Solo's Carbonite sealing device to nefarious military operations around the world. Providing the blueprints to a working Death Star to extremist groups. Allowing Ann Widdicombe to wear Princess Leia's bikini. When will it stop? WILL SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN????

Han Solo grinding. Princess Leia provocatively 'grinding' for Jabba. In most levels, check out what the stormtroopers are doing in the background. Looks a little bit suggestive. The worst part about the dancing levels are that they are the only bit of the game that really works well, the Kinect is responsive, tracks you well and the gameplay is pretty good. Let's face it, who hasn't wanted to mince around as Han Solo?

Overall, it's about 4 hours of entertainment before it gets really repetitive. Most Star Wars fans are now beyond being hurt any more after the birth of Jar-Jar, most of the prequels and our childhood memories being trampled over by George Lucas' endless desire for money at the expense of credibility. My bitterness towards him has not clouded this review; the game's just not very good. Kids will get bored easily and frustrated at the Kinect's tracking issues; adults will despair that for the same price as this they could have bought 20 Star Wars figures 'back in the day' and been able to send off all those coupons on the back of the packet for the 'special figures' you couldn't buy.

If you love Star Wars and think the prequels are all good, you'll still love this. That is because you're nuts.
If you love Star Wars and despair at some of the prequel's events, you'll tolerate this. When was the last time you spent £40 to tolerate something?
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 18, 2012 1:39 PM BST


The Aquarium
The Aquarium

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Appalling. Apparently it's not meant to be a comedy., 28 Mar 2012
This review is from: The Aquarium (Kindle Edition)
I should have realised when I saw the front cover that I was letting my brain in for a beating. This is amongst the worst things that I've ever read and was only marginally better than the time I received a letter informing me I was now bankrupt. If you were foolish enough to endure this dross you would have to get through prose such as:
"Agent Trevor Legends stood in the dark. A sharp Chinese man, he could have cut through steel with a mere glance."

Trevor Legends. A sentient being actually named the main protagonist of their 'novel' Trevor Legends. Do yourself a favour and have a look at the snippet of the novel that is available on Amazon for you to read. This is substandard stuff. Substandard if you were a 11 year old undertaking some edgy creative writing. And the synopsis of the novel is equally inept - 'Water is Frightening'. Yes, if you're a Martian during the denouement of War of the Worlds. It's baloney of the lowest order.

Characterisation is shockingly poor and hackneyed. The plot has more holes than a sponge. It's exceedingly dull. It obviously never saw its way to an editor or otherwise you'd be dealing with a short story rather than the bloated corpse of a novel that it's trying to be.

Overall, utterly woeful.


DupliCity (Detective NAPA - the Native American psychic agent Book 1)
DupliCity (Detective NAPA - the Native American psychic agent Book 1)
Price: £0.98

8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Self-Righteous, Pretentious Nonsense, 27 Dec 2011
For all its airs and graces and desperate desire to be humourous, this was a pretty poor attempt to create a Douglas Adams-esque spoof a la Dirk Gentley.

The writing is pretentious at best and has the tell-tale sign of an author wishing to appear far more academic than they actually are. The time-shifting narrative is fairly clunky and juvenile when you compare it with the likes of David Mitchell. The characters are poorly fleshed out and merely rely upon you reflecting upon what you already know of the literary characters they're based on. The plot is exceedingly dull and I've consumed far better prose on the back of a cereal packet. I have now deboned the member of my family that thought this would be a good present.

Apart from all those major misgivings it's fantastic.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 22, 2012 4:28 PM GMT


Gears of War 3 (Xbox 360)
Gears of War 3 (Xbox 360)
Offered by Gameline GmbH.
Price: £9.50

62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fenix Nighty Nights - a Perfect End., 20 Sep 2011
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Having now completed the campaign and given the multiplayer a good seeing to, I can confidently say that this is the pinnacle of the Gears trilogy.

I've never really been a Gears fanboy before but have enjoyed my time causing merry alien bloodshed with Marcus and chums. The social aspects of the game, such as co-op campaigns, Multiplayer and Horde, were what I really enjoyed. These have always been well executed and demonstrate why Gears is such a popular MP experience. I was hoping that Gears 3 could match the polish of its predecessor and it delivers in spades.

It took me around 10 hours to complete the campaign on normal and about the same again with a group of mates in Hardcore setting. The campaign plot shines through. The mixture of pace throughout levels is well judged and shows that the Gears' creators have begun to feel increasingly comfortable in having a nice balance of slower paced sections in amongst the frenzy of war. I was really impressed with the focus on storytelling and the noticeable efforts to really tie up a lot of the series' plotlines. As a miserable old cynic I was genuinely touched by a few moments in the story and thought that sentimentality was treated with real reverence. That's not to say that the gruff humour of the previous games is somewhat lacking; it's evident throughout but there is always the underlying thought that this is the end of things, one way or the other.

Lots of old faces return and none of these appearances feel shoe-horned into the plot. The cast get their chance to shine and do their thing for the COGS. Not only does give us some of the standout and most touching scenes of the Gears trilogy, but it also offers us some stunning individual levels. For me, a siege level encountered half way through the game encapsulates what is best about this series; a sense of urgency; the wide range of useful weapons available; the feeling that you are fighting overwhelming numbers; the importance of teamwork and the bond that exists between the soldiers. The AI in the game is superb, both on your side and with regards to the enemy. In most battles, modifying your attack approaches will reap rewards. It's this AI that really makes Gears 3 such a pleasure to play. The increased range of enemies adds real breadth and longevity to the game as you discover new strategies to deal with them. The scale and magnitude of some of them are a thing of gaming wonder. An arcade mode of the campaign is available which allows you to get one over on your friends by besting their score. Stealing kills has never felt so good.

As for the Multiplayer, Horde returns improved and more nuanced than previously. Not only do your motley crew have to fight off ever-improving groups of enemies, but now elements of castle-defence games have been thrown into the mix. What this means is that as you accumulate kills, you receive funds that can be used to help kit you out with better defences and equipment. This adds a further layer, to what is already an outstanding game mode.

Beast mode is new to Gears 3 and is similar to Horde. In this mode you play as an attacking group of Locust troops, striving to wipe out a group of humans. The better you do, the more experience you will have to spend on characters. The more experience you gain, the more characters become available. The best praise I can give is that this works as well as Horde, which is high praise indeed. The only improvement would be for rounds to be longer, but that aside I can see this game type eating up a lot of social gaming hours.

The rest of the Multiplayer options build on the successes of the previous Gears games and add range and content. They work brilliantly and offer a range of excellent game modes.

It's a fine game. As a package, it offers hours of entertainment. The love that the developers have for their franchise is obvious through all the little extras that exhibit the game, but also with the level of detail evident throughout, It's a near-perfect ending to the trilogy. I cared little for the story before but the writers really engaged me throughout and I found myself being drawn into a game that i thought would be just another polished run and gun experience. The co-op experiences I've had so far have been great and I haven't suffered any lag at all.

Having said all that, there is one small scene involving a character named 'The Cole Train', which has to go down as one of the most painful, cringe-inducing moments in gaming history. The fact that I didn't then will Cole to die painfully is perhaps testament to the excellence of the plot and gameplay.

Gears 3 is the best of the trilogy and for value for money, possibly only The Orange Box comes close. You will get many hours gaming pleasure from this. Whilst I was dubious that Gears 3 would live up to its huge hype, I'm happy to report that it's better than I could have expected.
Comment Comments (20) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 8, 2011 4:03 PM BST


Bodycount (Xbox 360)
Bodycount (Xbox 360)
Offered by Gamexpress
Price: £4.75

26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck..., 17 Sep 2011
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Bodycount (Xbox 360) (Video Game)
..it's a duck. This looked rubbish, mindless and archaic and that's exactly what it is.

Dear oh dear. This game might have been a bit more forgivable if it had been released 10 years ago but for a 2011 game it's pretty shoddy. It's like Jedward, Jordan and John Terry never happened. That obviously would have been a good thing.

It's as daft as the Chuckle Brothers although it doesn't really share their brooding intensity and underlying threat. Never trust men with tashes like those.

Whilst playing this game I was really struggling to work out why on earth this game actually exists. If you are going to brazenly steal the ideas and gameplay of other titles, why would you do such a tremendously bad job of it? If you liked the destructive, fast-paced shooting of Black, this is much worse. If you loved the skill kill aspect of Bulletstorm, then this is a poor rehash of that approach. If you liked the mindless gunplay of The Club, this doesn't come close. If you loved Hour of Victory, then you are a mentalist and will adore this game. Although how you can read this review is beyond me.

By way of enlightening you all to the utter gashness of this game, I'll deconstruct the advertising spiel that Amazon give it:-
"Fall in love with firepower in intense arcade firefights"
Or not. Struggle to work out how on earth the AI are incapable of seeing you when you are standing directly in front of them, yet at other times be able to shoot you from the most acute of angles whilst outside when you are hidden in a room and behind the bog-standard gaming filing cabinet.

"Deploy a powerful arsenal of weapons"
Don't expect many guns. Infuriatingly you can't pick up the guns of the enemies you've just killed. Absolutely ridiculous.

"Rack up your Bodycount in campaign and online co-op and competitive multiplayer modes"
You'll be passed caring how many enemies you've killed within a few minutes of playing this game. They're repetitive, dumb, offer little challenge apart from when the grenade spamming occurs and occasionally spawn from nowhere to suddenly be behind you.

"Execute skill kills, build combat combat chains and collect intel to earn combat upgrades"
Wow, combat upgrades, that's like so incredible. Let's hope they don't decide to offer very little in the way of combat upgrades and actually allow you no say over what's being upgraded. No, that would be very silly and limiting...

"Shred through cover and enemies to carve a unique path of destruction"
Yep. Use your destructive force to either go in a straight line or go slightly off of the straight line. Bodycount doesn't really give you the multiple paths of Deus Ex or even Brink. And it's all so badly done. Some walls require a shot or two wheras others (of the same material apparently) require an Exocet missile to break them down.

"Hunt the mysterious `Target' who manipulate world events under the cover of civil warzones"
My 4 year old could have come up with a better plot than this bunch of hokum. I know people won't really be playing this game for the plot - rather the hyperactive shooting - but it's the kind of nonsense that Michael Bay would find deep and meaningful. Dirge.

"Take on class-based enemies who work together to hunt you down"
If by working together, they mean run round like headless chickens then this game delivers in spades. They also have a love of chokepoints meaning you could probably complete this game just using mines.

"Storm `Target' bases and prove yourself in exhilarating boss battles"
Do we have to have boss battles in 2011? It's a lazy gaming convention and I just wish developers would have the balls to be a bit more inventive. The bosses are rubbish, easy to kill and you'll have seen them and their achilles' heels being fully exploited in games from yesteryear.

"Every kill counts - replay each level to improve your score"
If a game implores you to replay its levels, it must give something back. For such a poorly executed game such as this, there is absolutely no desire to face the dull environments again.

Then are a number of other real issues. Checkpoints are badly spaced, sometimes too often, sometimes far too infrequent. In addition to this issue, on 4 levels my checkpoint was saved at the precise moment I was either getting shot up more than a junkie or just as I needed to reload my gun.

Ultimately, I knew what I was letting myself in for. The demo on Live (and presumably PSN) is an accurate insight into this game. If you're still debating getting this, try before you buy. It's utter nonsense, poorly executed and despite all the shock and awe going on around you, is rather dull. But, a 5 hour single player campaign which is based on run 'n gun was mildly diverting but with all the longevity of a Krispy Kreme Doughnut in a Weightwatchers meeting. I'd have to give it 2 stars as it did help me to forget the recession, society's impending breakdown, the destruction of the planet, Cher Lloyd, Nissan Micras and mushrooms. Not sure a rating system should be based on how dumb a game is and how thick you feel playing it, but it's my review so 2/5 it is.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 24, 2011 12:12 PM BST


Rise of Nightmares - Kinect Compatible (Xbox 360)
Rise of Nightmares - Kinect Compatible (Xbox 360)
Offered by megamoviestore
Price: £6.99

64 of 78 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kinect Incompatible, 10 Sep 2011
= Fun:1.0 out of 5 stars 
If like me you were looking for more reasons to justify your frivalous purchase of a Kinect then this game was a shining beacon of hope amongst a rather lacklustre library of Kinect titles. An entire game rather than a group of minigames bundled together. With adult themes rather than cute creatures bouncing around with their nauseating saccharine spirit. The trailers made it look edgy, but graphically a bit dubious. If you need a game to sate your Kinect fix then please buy Child of Eden. One level of that contains more craft, intelligence and invention than this.

If you buy this game this is what to expect:-
1. Disastrous controls. Even the most basic task is a strain to achieve. Put one leg in front of the other to walk. Never works first time. In the first level I was told to run. I've had quite a bit of practice running over the last 30-odd years so fairly sure I know how to run. This game made me look as if I'd had more hip replacements than the Queen Mother (RIP). Running in Rise of Nightmares is like no type of running you will ever have experienced before. Unless your knees have never been able to bend. It took me about 20 attempts to be able to run properly. I'm not an imbecile.
2. Perhaps Sega realised that the controls were a tiny bit rubbish, so they kindly allow you to skip through some activities. This is achieved by using the 'auto' facility. Have you ever really wanted to recreate your primary school days of repeatedly sticking your arm up to answer a question? I'd hazard a guess that it's a bit of a niche market. Needless to say, to use the auto facility you must often raise you arm for minutes at a time. This is not only needlessly tiring but hugely tiresome.
3. Bosses are rubbish. Offer very little challenge and can be defeated with the following tactic. Waggle your arms in front of you to hurt them and then when prompted by the on-screen instructions, sidestep.
4. Pretty much every enemy in the game is easily defeated by the following strategy. Imagine you are epilectic and are put into a rave. Turn on the neon lights. I hope to God that none of my neighbours saw me playing this game as I looked like an utterly disfunctional homo sapien.
5. Oh look, let's add some much-needed replay value to the game by sticking in a bunch of collectables. Hmmmm, not getting massively bored of that in games.
6. It's just not very scary. Dull, repetitive and if you've ever played a computer game before, it's as formulaic as they come. You can pretty much predict where enemies are going to come from, which spoils the surprise. It's just all rather insipid.
7. Ever wanted to be a can-can girl, I know I have? Well, with this game you can-can (sorry). Kick out at an enemy and you too will look like Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge. Made me laugh every time I did it. Does slightly take the sheen off of the 'scary' atmosphere.

I can only presume that the front cover is a picture of the developers trying to stop word of mouth. I can't give this game any more than 1 out of 5 because the most basic requirement, a decent control system is utterly redundant. Perhaps a patch may come out to improve things, but it's just not good enough for those who pay a premium to be release day purchasers. It's always easy to pick out the negatives in a game and I seem to be making a habit of reviewing tripe. Problem is it feels so good to get dirge like this out of your system.
Comment Comments (21) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 11, 2013 7:44 AM GMT


Sniper Ghost Warrior (Xbox 360)
Sniper Ghost Warrior (Xbox 360)
Offered by Game Trade Online
Price: £11.47

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Predator 3: Aliens Undercover, 1 Aug 2011
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
Who doesn't like playing as a sniper every now and again in a single player game? The chance to obliterate some poor unsuspecting everyman baddie by blasting his cranium into smithereens. A certain pleasure comes from being an absolute wuss, half a mile from the enemy. How could a gaming experience based on lying in a bush for hours waiting to fire one shot possibly go wrong?

Well, the AI in this game is a thing of wonder. I'm an FPS fanboy and will play any old cack just to see if there's a glimmer of invention present or one decent level. This looked like it could be half decent despite what gaming reviews would suggest. That was until I started playing. Most of the enemies you fight are infantryman. Not snipers. Yet, they have uncanny vision. Some might suggest, they almost have the clairvoyant prowess of Russell Grant, such is their ability to spot you when you are miles away, hidden in a bush, utterly still and immobile. Not prancing around in a pair of leather chaps, a day-glo raving vest and a flashing neon light to announce your arrival. They can apparently see through huts as well. Then they also have a Predator-esque ability to appear from nowhere and be utterly hidden from view until you're on top of them. And their ears? Dumbo couldn't hear the things these guys can.

Despite all this I quite enjoyed the game. I say game, but actually mean the 8 out of 16 levels that I successfully completed. Now, I'm not one for reviewing a game when I haven't completed it, but there is a reason on this occasion. The real game-breaking problem first manifested itself in Level 3. Up to that point the game had been quite simple, reasonably enjoyable and very formulaic. The game decided I'd been having too easy a time, so it thought it would up the challenge. At the next available checkpoint, the game saved just at the point my character merged with a rock and with 2 enemies looming. As I unwillingly became a stone golem, my ability to fire my gun also disappeared and I became a bullet sponge. Every time I respawned. So I had to restart the level from the start. Seeing as each level is no more than 25 minutes long I took it on the chin and restarted the level. An annoyance but not game-breaking. No that was still to come.

Another 5 levels of identikit FPS adventures until I reached Level 9. Involved infiltrating a camp and then scarpering. As you scarper, unexplained explosions wipe your health out. I finally managed to cross a small piece of wasteland with the phantom bombs going off still to be greeted by a savepoint at the same moment as my HUD was telling me I was being shot from 5 different directions. I died. I was respawned to be greeted by the same scenario. Repeat ad infinitum. Much to my obvious chagrin I restarted the level. Got to exactly the same point again and the game decided to save just at the very moment my body was playing the role of bullet sponge. Having looked online, apparently this is a common problem. It makes the grenade spamming of the AI on COD:World at War look easy.

More reasons for annoyance. Achievements don't unlock, if that's your thing. The game is more an action FPS than a stealthy sniper game. The AI on your side are pretty useless. The levels all look similar. The Multiplayer is utter gash.

When it wasn't glitching and the AI wasn't being a smarty pants then Sniper: Ghost Warrior was mildly diverting. Other than that it was a simplistic, gung ho approximation of the art of sniping.


Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Price: £8.24

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime - a future classic., 20 Jun 2011
This review is from: Bon Iver, Bon Iver (Audio CD)
For Emma, Forever was faultless. One of those rare albums that really has no weak songs or fillers. I don't know a single person who I've played the album to, that haven't fallen in love with it. It's a modern masterpiece.

Bon Iver was never going to be able to replicate the fragility and stripped-back dynamism of its predecessor. The greatest compliment that I can give this album is that it doesn't try to; instead offering a more expansive sound and musical range than For Emma, Forever. That's not to say that the raw emotion, that was so prevalent in the debut album ,is not here in spades. Or that the haunting voice and lyrics that make Bon Iver the artist so unique have been overhauled. The most surprising thing is that the artist has managed to produce 2 disparate albums that are individually sublime. For an artist to produce one masterpiece clearly shows their talents; to produce 2 in a row demonstrates Justin Vernon's genius. Thankfully his sojourn with Kanye West has not tainted his sound.

But what of the songs? They are all named after places, whether real or imagined (such as Hinnom, Texas). There is clearly more variety stylistically between them than the tracks on For Emma, Forever.

Perth features the forceful drumming of a military band and demonstrates that the emotional aspect of Vernon's vocals is present and correct. The song culminates with a horn section in conjunction with the afore-mentioned drumming to add to the increasing urgency of the song's climax. Minnesota, WI. is my current favourite and features a diverse range of horns, mandolins and guitars that all work perfectly together. Holocene is the type of song you could imagine Justin Vernon creating at the time of For Emma, Forever. Yet the production values on the song identify it clearly with this album. The increased focus on drums features again on the track, but never overpowers any of the other parts. Towers is a more jaunty affair, starting like a contemporary country song. Mid-song it briefly becomes more of a rollicking affair, before gently settling back to the pitch of the start. Michichant is probably the most emotionally sung tune on the album and Vernon's vulnerability comes to the fore again. Hinnom, Tx, sees Vernon's voice fluctuate more than in any other song and it's this variety that really makes the track. On initial hearing, I was a bit sceptical of it, but on repeated listening it really is a grower. Not the strongest song on the album, but definitely not the filler that I originally had it down as. Wash. is framed by a minimal piano piece behind it and the emphasis here is on Vernon's vocals being the focal point of all of your attention; the production values hark back to the first album. Calgary is the most well-known song on the album, being the initial single release and demonstrates the new Bon Iver style; not seeking to copy For Emma, Forever, instead to take some of the emotional aspects of that album and to offer a warmer-sounding album with less stripped-back production. Lisbon, OH is a short instrumental number that serves as a warm-up to the album's finale. I'd agree with critics who've likened the sound of Beth, Rest to that of Bruce Hornby. This really is a song that wouldn't be out of place on one of his 80's albums. Yet, it works and this is in no part down to the fact that individual instruments get their chance to shine and compliment the vocals.

If you're expecting For Emma, Forever Part 2, unfortunately you're not going to get it. But, if you're looking for some of the heart of that album; the vocal range and genius of Justin Vernon; the beautifully written songs and that addictive desire to have just one more listen then Bon Iver delivers. Presently my album of the year. If an album were to better this in 2011, then it would have been a great one for modern music. As it is, I'm in absolutely no doubt that this will be recognised as one of the classic albums of the early 21st century, it's that good.


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