Review: Basses Loaded by (the) Melvins

a2965628692_10.jpgMany reviews are painting this album as unfocused and lacking energy, and are painting the Melvins as drained of art. On the contrary, there is an important distinction between eliciting feelings of foggy weariness and being foggy and weary.

Singing the song of the exhausted skeleton on the cover, the album opens with the lost and alarmed track Decay of Lying, and proceeds to take the listener on a varied journey through downtrodden, curious, bitter, ridiculous, and ecstatic emotions. Lots of this feels like Neurosis’ Times of Grace, but comes from a more punk background.

Even the most stylistic and uncreative tracks have brilliant and thought-provoking moments – like the fade out and fade in at the end of I Want to Tell You that blends into the heavy groove at the beginning of Captain Come Down; this implies a lot of self-awareness and critical thought about the work.

One question I’m struggling with while writing this is: What the hell is with Shaving Cream?

The songs definitely aren’t as integral as other Melvins albums like A Senile Animal, and this is a common line of criticism for Basses Loaded. Critics tend to view artists as convenient objects under a microscope. Once artists create something good, they are decried as failures when they deviate from the course of their past selves; where do you go from the top of a mountain? They have the dangerous choice of risking imperfect change or risking stagnation. In Basses Loaded, they took both risks, and came out with something as fun, ridiculous, and gritty as ever.

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Review: Dark Souls 3

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Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls are beautiful, deep, and fascinating games. Dark Souls III is a great looking and great feeling game with similar themes and atmosphere to the best in the series, but it is entertainment rather than art.

The world is emotionally compelling and utilizes powerful visual poetry – exemplified by the pilgrim-strewn broken bridge to the high castle, the infinite slaughter of the Undead Legion, the mystery of Archdragon Peak in the distance, and the tormented city of criminals and evangelists – but all of this is somewhat wasted due to linearity in world-scale connectivity; players really feel immersion and understand the scale of a world when they are the ones traversing it, rather than being allowed to warp from bonfire to bonfire. For example, while a player may consciously understand that venturing down from the castle, through the swamp, and into the Cathedral of the Deep is a large decent, the descent will never feel as deep as the crushing weight of the Depths and Blighttown through which players themselves felt the stress of traversing; the warping cheapens the world. While players may still have the option to walk everywhere and never warp, the world in Dark Souls III is not designed for this, so it would feel tedious rather than dreadful, as it did in Dark Souls.

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Gameplay feels tight, satisfying and material. The marketing and design of Dark Souls III heavily rely on multiplayer – the last boss is even a reference to multiplayer culture; however, rather than the awesome roleplaying experience portrayed by the franchise, players are much more likely to face meta-built players wielding dark swords or uchigatanas who play only to win (with or without skill) rather than to experience gameplay. While building characters is part of the game, the re-stat ability cheapens this ability, and allows the highly connected community to find exploitive ways to abuse unavoidable flaws in game design balance. While winning is obviously the objective of any game, it seems unfortunate that a majority of Dark Souls III players fail to answer the questions: is the “game of meta” a game that is worth winning? Why does one choose to play the games they do? Are people really satisfied by winning appearances of games rather than winning games?

Answer these questions yourself! Play some Souls.