Ocean’s 11 (IMPACT Series)

The coolest collection of men in any one film, ever.

Welcome to the IMPACT series where I dissect notable and iconic sequences from games and movies, and how they broadened my mind and left a lasting impression on me, years to come. 

Because the house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes, the house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet big, and then you take the house.

Been practising that speech, haven’t you?

The Backdrop.

I just want to start off, by saying that my mother, despite her limited film knowledge, has impeccable taste in pop culture.

She knew exactly what her sons would enjoy and was the first to introduce us to Star Wars, Pulp Fiction and of course Ocean’s 11.

I have to credit her girlish nature, because she was purely interested in this film from a pure aesthetic standpoint.

Something that I can’t disagree with.

This film is stacked with class, luxury and too many beautiful people.

This was the film that taught me, that you can get away with anything, as long as you’re as criminally cool as Danny Ocean and Rusty.

Upon watching the film for the first time, I immediately hit rewind and rewatched it again.

Ocean’s 11 works so well as a film, because it perfectly captures the glamour, the effortless style and wit of old-school American Hollywood. It oozes with style, charisma and humour, without trying too hard.

It also has the best written dialogue/banter between the two male leads, actors at the height of their game, handsomeness and star power.

Ocean’s 11 is a lot like putting on a tailored suit. It’s warm, reassuring, makes you feel confident and classy. You are more at ease with yourself, and there is an attractive mischevious twinkle in your eye.

It’s the best type of comfort, the warm burn of cinematic whiskey.

Their chemistry, coupled with some of the best dialogue ever written, is magic.

The Impact.

Ocean’s 11 is probably single-handedly responsible for the concept of the classy American trope in my mind. I didn’t have a very good grasp on the idea, but upon multiple rewatches of Ocean’s 11, I had written a thesis on the concept after the 19th time watching the film.

The classy American is the perfect mix of confidence, grit and class. He is consummately professional, relaxed and softly spoken. Well dressed with a touch of arrogance, because he believes he is the best man in the room.

After all, he’s American. He’s worldly, but prefers to stay close to home, because he doesn’t want to lose his connection to his roots. He’s classy, with an appreciation for the dirtier aspects of life, hence why behind his dry wit and humour, is a touch of irony and cynicism.

He loves the finer things in life, but doesn’t hold any mysticism for them. He doesn’t value things higher than they really are, and even regard some luxury items as almost superfluous, whilst others would not.

What this man truly values are his friends, and he commands their respect and adoration in equal measure. He rarely make mistakes, but on the few occasions he does, he’s consummately humble and almost mischievously unapologetic.

This American archetype is the rarest and best type of American male. He doesn’t have any faults, his taste is impeccable and he only seeks the best in life and himself.

And no one person, better personifies this dramatic character, than George Clooney himself.

I fell in love with the character of Daniel Ocean, right from the very start. The quiet confidence, the thoughtfulness of his actions, the manner in which he carried himself … this was a man who was in control of everything.

He did nothing without a good reason, and was relaxed enough about it to look cool while doing so.

Even traveling up an escalator, hours after leaving the clink, Daniel Ocean is the picture of effortless class and style.

And then there’s Rusty Ryan.

Brad Pitt, literally being himself.

A man who knows he’s good looking and doesn’t give a damn.

Whilst Danny represents the classy side of an American Gentleman, Rusty is the antithesis, the affable, irascible American scoundrel.

He’s wilder, more unpredictable, but also oddly the more capable one. Rusty looks like he can hold his own in a fight and isn’t afraid to use his considerable sex appeal to his advantage.

There’s an undeniably sexy sleaziness about him, a man who is going to show you a good time, however fleeting it is going to be, but at least you know it’s worth it.

Rusty, to me as a young man, was my favourite character. I wanted to be as quick on my feet as he was.

“How’s your day going?!”

Rusty looks at the bartender, bored and disenfranchised with his current job.

Longest hour of my life.” he shoots back.

“What?!” yelled back the bartender, unable to hear anything above the music.

Rusty smiles. “I’m running away with your wife!”

“Great!” says the bartender, unable to comprehend anything.

Rusty smiles and raises his glass of whiskey in an ironic salute.

Steven Soderbergh’s iconic visual style is in full display here.

The Enrichment.

Aside from developing a serious man crush on the two leads, Ocean’s 11 also taught me the beauty of dialogue in motion.

This is one of the smartest, quickest and wittiest films ever put on screen. The dialogue is rapid, and the delivery only heightens just how clever the characters are.

Some of my favourite dialogue ever put to film is between Julia Roberts and George Clooney. You can see how much they still care for each other, but it’s bitter now, distrustful and a shadow of its former self. Tess is cold, unapproachable, a woman to fear and desire at the same time. Daniel pines for her, she’s the personal reason why he wants to pull off this job.

He wants revenge on the guy who has taken his wife away from him.

They say I’ve paid my debt to society.

Funny, I never got the cheque.

It’s so clever, rapid and multi-layered. I still go back and rewatch the film, just to enjoy how the writers managed to capture so much wit in so few words. It is an insanely quotable film and I believe Ocean’s 11 and Casino Royale are the two films that I know every single beat, every single line to.

In addition to inspiring me to write better screenplays, Ocean’s 11 cinematography also struck me from a very young age.

There was something incredible about the way how this film was captured. There is the perfect amount of grain to every scene, a wonderful use of light and natural surroundings to showcase how these characters are larger than the extras around them.

This was the movie that really made me recognise the importance of cinematography. Because to film these actors amongst the hustle and bustle of a casino, requires a certain skill. I especially, loved the natural lighting that I’ve seen a thousand times over in reality, the soft candle-lit warm light that just highlights the face of a person close to you.

Films like Ocean’s 11 make me appreciate the beauty of reality, because I’m not just watching it, I can go out and live it.

The final thing that the film taught me, was the importance of team work. It also taught me a very early lesson on leadership. I’m a vastly different leader to Daniel Ocean, but I think the essence of my style is tied to his. I want to garner loyalty and the best way to achieve that is to be successful.

Because at the end of the day, most people will suffer almost anything, as long as you’re successful.

But that shouldn’t mean that you put your team through needless suffering. Instead, I learned that everything needs to be precise, needs to occur for a reason. Whatever it is you, as the leader, you have to take ownership and be aware of how it affects your team.

Danny did the whole heist, but withheld a very importance reason why from the team. A reason that almost put the entire operation at risk.

Just remember, Tess does not split 11 ways!

I learned to not fear a big team, because of Ocean’s 11. I knew that if I channel some of the Ocean’s charisma and confidence, I could bluff my way through anything, until I worked out the plan.

And it worked a treat. I don’t think I’ve ever joined a big team with a chip on my shoulder or fear in my heart.

There’s good looking men, then there’s George Clooney in this film. What a gentleman. Listen to this.

The Culmination.

I shall briefly touch on the sequels, which are great, but aren’t quite the touch of genius that 11 was.

I would like to credit Ocean’s 13 for the absolute perfect way to say goodbye, something that I have used many, many times: See you when I see you.

In addition, for reuniting the team against a great villain in Al Pacino’s Willy Bank.

As for Ocean’s 12, that film was actually a pure audio experience. I fell in love with the music in that film, especially the use of Italian love songs to highlight certain scenes. I loved the European setting, but it was the European music, that really got me, especially the a la menthe song used in the famous laser dance sequence.

Something that I still mock dance to, this day.

The Ocean’s 11 film opened my eyes to the glamour of celebrity for the first time. I wholeheartedly understood the appeal behind these men and felt an instant urge to suit up and be as cool and confident.

I learned how to not fear big teams when it came to leadership, how to write better screenplays and genuinely find inspiration in other men, on how to behave, talk and treat one another.

Without my mother’s taste in pop culture, I would have found a lot less interesting people to model myself off.

This was the film that established the suave American male that I will forever hold onto as an archetype I aspire to and also gave me the clear sign that in order to be cool, you had to do so effortlessly and with style.

Like eating food in every single scene, whilst looking completely nonchalant about it.


~ Damocles.

Rusty, proving that even the most handsome men, experience boredom. I’ve never seen a more devil-may-care attitude, better personified in a character.


Arguably still the most important band to me, to this very day. From left, Tomoya Kanki (Drums), Toru Yamashita (Guitar), Takahiro “Taka” Moriuchi (Vocals) & Ryota Kohama (Bass).

Welcome to the IMPACT series where I dissect notable and iconic sequences from games and movies, and how they broadened my mind and left a lasting impression on me, years to come. 

For all of the times that they say it’s impossible
They built all the hurdles, the walls, and the obstacles
When we’re together, you know we’re unstoppable now

The Backdrop.

I have always longed admired the Japanese music industry. The breadth of genres in which they cover is immense and impressively unique, unlike their Korean counterparts. There is a reason why there is a J in front of the genre “J-Rock” because it mixes the sensibilities of rock with a unique Japanese touch.

ONE OK ROCK (OOR) is perhaps the perfect example of J-Rock done right. Heavily inspired by another legendary band, Linkin Park, OOR blends English and Japanese lyrics, with deep social themes and just good old fashioned hard beats that make for a nearly unbeatable combination.

But how did I first discover this band?

It was through a film of course, the Rurouni Kenshin series which always ended their films with a ONE OK ROCK number.

The moment I heard the song The Beginning play over the end credits of the first Rurouni Kenshin (2012) film, I knew that I had to go find more of their songs and see if they were good.

I was dumbfounded and ecstatic to find that so many more incredible tunes were to come from ONE OK ROCK, and yes … they could sing English as well as Japanese.

To this day, you can play a OOR song and I will immediately jump up and start belting out the lyrics. They have been a staple for me, on every single Ipod, phone and whatever else device that can play music, because to put it simply, there are times I cannot last a day without hearing an OOR song at least once.

I will delve more into how their songs have helped me get through tough times later.

But what is important to me about OOR is their incredible ability to create really emotional songs without compromising their overall message and melodies. They have gone through so many versions of rock, without ever really losing their unique flavour. Emo rock, Pop Rock, Hardcore, Alternative … but throughout it all, OOR has never lost their intensity and their relevance in appealing to struggling young people and inspiring them to be better.

ONE OK ROCK, to me is the personification of the angry, angsty, teen that resides in all of us, but uses that energy to create instead of destroy.

ONE OK ROCK at a sold-out Yokohama Stadium in 2014. This concert was so good, I felt the energy all the way through my screen and downloaded the entire damn thing.

The Impact.

One of the only bands that caught me so wholeheartedly, that I had to attend their first ever concert here in Melbourne.

It was amazing. I was jammed into a tiny concert hall, that could barely fit all the other hardcore fans like myself and the energy was contagious.

For those who know me, I am generally a bit of a paranoid wreck when squished so close to hundreds of other people. I am always afraid that someone will hurt me, steal my wallet or do something else that is despicable.

But for ONE OK ROCK, the intensity in which they played live and sang so hard, made me lose my inhibitions. For the first time, I went wild and was fist-pumping, screaming and jumping up and down to every beat, every word and every song.

I don’t think I screamed any harder than I have, when I heard Taka sang The Beginning. The whole crowd was just so amped.

What makes OOR so good, are their powerful vocals, catchy lyrics, along with hard hitting rock melodies. Taka himself is a vocal prodigy, with the ability to soar high above trashing metal sounds and capture deep angst within us all. He can project like no-one else and maintain high notes all whilst running and jumping everywhere on stage.

His English pronunciation is practically perfect, a very rare sign of a man in possession of perfect pitch, as often Japanese people struggle with English sounds.

The band itself named themselves ONE OK ROCK, because of their habit of practicing at One O’Clock in the morning. Japanese wordplay actually dictates that the sounds of “R” and “L” are almost indistinguishable from one another, so it slowly morphed from OK ROCK into ONE OK ROCK.

If I am honest, there is a reason why Taka is the face of ONE OK ROCK, because his vocals are just so amazing, that they elevate the rock melodies that accompany them. His earnest delivery of every line and seamless transition from English to Japanese then back to English is remarkable.

Every song, from the harder rock anthems like NO SCARED to the softer soothing songs like Be the light really proves how Taka’s voice seems to just represent the cries of millions of young people who are in strife.

His voice simultaneously soothes you, comforts you and lifts you higher. His delivery lets you know that it’s OK to be in pain, and at the same time, reaches out to give you a helping hand to get back up.

It’s why, whenever I am in a dark place, I listen to ONE OK ROCK.

Its emotionally poignant to me, to hear their songs.

Taka’s raw vocal talent and energy is absolutely incredible. He has one of the best voices period, a true prodigy.

The Enrichment.

Every single one of us have that band that you own a lot to. For me, OOR is that band.

I found them on my own, and grew deeper and deeper in love with them, with each song I heard from them. I was probably the only hardcore OOR fan amongst my friends too, for a very long time, so the connection felt even deeper.

What really cemented my love for this band was my first ever solo travel trip, to Queensland for University Games, which was held in Gold Coast.

At the time I was a member of the fencing club and was competing up there for fun. But it was also strangely lonely, and I found myself wandering around alone a lot.

What kept the feelings of isolation away was OOR. They inspired me to fence better in the competition, explore more of the tourist town and just have a good time, venting my emotional state.

What I learned through OOR is that sometimes, your favourite songs can become the perfect emotional catharsis you need to banish bad moods and lingering thoughts.

Songs like The Beginning, Mighty Long Fall, Renegades, Broken Heart of Gold and Deeper Deeper helps unlock something inside of me that I can’t express anywhere else, even in writing. It allows me to experience the highs of certain emotions without really compromising my own emotional well-being.

In a lot of ways, it allows me to scream and vent my frustrations and anger to the beat of a great meaningful song and get a sense that some of the weight on my shoulders have been lifted.

And it is always those songs that give me that release.

Beyond the strong emotional attachment I have to their songs, OOR also opened the door to a lot of new J-Rock bands that I wouldn’t have found otherwise.

Bands like NOISEMAKER, The Oral Cigarettes, BAND-MAID, MY FIRST STORY (Taka’s younger brother’s band) and dozens more populate my Itunes Library and all their work would have never been discovered if I didn’t fall in love with OOR first.

Honestly, I probably don’t give OOR enough credit for just allowing me to really helping me express how I feel deep down inside about a lot of things, about situations that I struggle to control emotionally and to have a song that I can really plunge myself into without any inhibitions.

They really do represent a voice inside of me that needs to sing and scream.

Takeru Satoh and Takahiro Moriuchi chilling out on the set of Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (2014).

The Culmination.

ONE OK ROCK isn’t just another band to me. They represent a voice that sometimes needs to scream and emote above my usual rational self. I spend so much of my time controlling and understanding myself, that sometimes I need an escape, a way to express myself beyond my own control.

Listening to OOR does exactly that. The lyrics, the melodies, the beats and the voices just allow me to vent everything inside of me and make me feel like I am not alone.

No matter what anyone says, the band that you chose to follow as a teen, will always be the band that truly lets you explore the depths of your emotions. You can get older, wiser and supposedly more mature, but the moment you listen to your favourite teenage band again, you get that rush of adrenaline and energy that can only comes with young angst.

ONE OK ROCK, is more than just a truly unique band that mixes Japanese and English together. They’re the voice of hundreds if not thousands of young fans from all over the world who want to know that what they are feeling, isn’t just limited to them. It’s the roar of a crowd that understands you and is with you.

Only through rock, do you get that power.

And that is why they are my favourite band of all time and will always have a special place in my heart.


~ Damocles.

These guys, with their songs, lyrical meaning and powerful melodies have probably done more to banish any mental issues I’ve had over the years than any other form of therapy. They are still the first band I know where every single album had multiple songs I liked. Will love them always.


Chris Wolstenholme (bass), Matt Bellamy (vocals, guitar & keyboard) and Dominic Howard (drums) doing their best impression of a English rock band.

Welcome to the IMPACT series where I dissect notable and iconic sequences from games and movies, and how they broadened my mind and left a lasting impression on me, years to come. 

She burns like the sun
And I can’t look away
And she’ll burn our horizons
Make no mistakes

– Sunburn from the album Showbiz

The Backdrop.

I am a former pianist.

Reluctantly talented and recalcitrant about showing any of my skill to anyone, I was pigeon-holed into learning the piano when I was very young, approximately 7 years old.

I say pigeon-holed, because I had no real concept of what was going on, and didn’t realise that this was a typically egotistical Asian parenting method enforced on many young boys and girls at my age.

For some bizarre reason, all Asian parents have an obsession with classical music and enjoy putting their child through the musical wringer in order to boast to other Asian parents at just how talented their child was at banging keys on a board or moving a string across other strings in a cacophony of shrill sounds and clacks of long fingernails on ivory.

I played for my parents, my grandparents, random people … 4x in a concert hall … everyone except myself.

As you can probably tell … I am still embittered about this Asian tradition.

But what is the key behind this anecdote?

Classical music.

That was all I heard for the majority of my childhood. My father was obsessed with classical music. He incessantly bought endless CDs and played them relentlessly. The only sounds I would experience was classic. I played classical, lived classical and heard classical.

The man was so obsessed, be bestowed upon me, my middle name, ripped from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

So imagine my incredible shock, when a friend introduced me to the sounds of MUSE.

MUSE along with DREAM THEATER were my first real taste of music outside the prison of classical and ever since … I have never looked back once, obsessed with all types of music from synth, pop, jazz, metal, electronic and even begrudgingly listening to old operas.

Nothing would or will whet my appetite for music.

There are two items that I consider essentials in my life and they are called headphones and an Ipod.

I can lose everything else, but never those items.

Knights of Cydonia – A bizarre schlocky tune that perfectly captures the vibe of a Western Space Epic made in the style of 80s cheap B-Movies.

The Impact.

MUSE is known for its experimental style. Every album of theirs has them exploring all avenues of music. In fact, I like to think of MUSE as the band that creates an album that I absolutely despise at the beginning because it sounds so damn different to anything else they created before.

Then I wait for 2 months, and I recall their singles from that new album in my head. I visit it again … and somehow it hits different and suddenly, my opinion changes like a switch, from sickening disgust to rabid enthusiasm.

This has been the case since I was first in love with the first three albums that I was exposed to … Absolution (2003), Black Holes and Revelations (2006) and Showbiz (1999). I somehow skipped Origin of Symmetry (2001) for the longest time, but it was The Resistance (2009) where I was saying … “What the hell is this? This isn’t similar to Assassin.”

However over time, I grew to appreciate just how dynamic MUSE has remained in comparison to some of my other favourite bands. Each album continues to explore the themes that the band wants to tackle and do so in a way to really show how much passion they still have for their music.

Simulation Theory (2018) is a prime example of that. Diving full blown into the current 80s fever, MUSE throws their spin on synth, power-rock and electronic pop. The soundscape heard in Algorithm could not be any further removed from their cover of Feeling Good way back in 2001.

But the signature of MUSE is still there. Bellamy’s falsetto voice floating high, near operatic levels, whilst the experimental sounds crafted by Wolstenholme, Howard and Bellamy himself, buzz away underneath, eventually drowning out the vocals in a glorious mess of guitars, drums and pianos.

Even their MVs (Music Videos) carry over that same manic energy of constant innovation and a desire to be different every time. Some of their earliest songs like Hysteria has this incredibly grimy and Se7en like atmosphere to them, with a real narrative and style that seems to be in complete harmony with the music being played. It is disturbing and haunting … a stark contrast to the crimson themed, dream like bizarro atmosphere of Feeling Good, a song only released 2 years prior.

I mean, the latest series of MVs has Terry Crews fighting Gremlin like creatures and hacking a algorithm that is purported to hold the answer whether life is just a simulation.

Time is Running OutOne of the first songs I ever really fell in love with.

The Enrichment

MUSE opened my eyes to the huge variety of sounds that can be found in the world. They not only freed me from my prison, they comprehensively smashed it to pieces and told me to find the sounds that could be waiting for me, if I looked hard enough.

Now with a collection of music that could play for 127.5 days, and over 2767 albums, I can’t thank MUSE enough for introducing me to all kind of music.

Beyond that, I also grew to appreciative modern music more. After all, a band that can create songs like the intriguing Time is Running Out, the sensual Undisclosed Desires and rocky New Born and the revolution march Resistance has to be worth celebrating.

They also happened to be the perfect band to be exposed to as a teenager, with their hard and soft songs able to really help me channel some of the emotional excess I was experiencing at the time.

I have always found myself a kindred spirit to the Brits, so MUSE allowed me to explore that aspect of myself more, diving deeper into British styled music, and how the Brits can express themselves in truly zany ways, to compensate for the iconic stiff British resolve.

The Culmination.

MUSE was the gateway drug into the world of music for me. Their songs really allowed me to appreciate how modern composers can twist, turn and transform sounds, despite certain things on paper not really making any real sense.

How does a falsetto like Bellamy accompany the rock-like grunge that the band is producing? Only MUSE could work it out and make it an Platinum record.

Even now, as I revisit their songs, to prepare this post, I am still shocked at their ability to create such unique sounds and melodies that make me want to shake my head and scream along with them.

The dream then, is one day to attend their concert and truly see their mastery at work. I still recall downloading HAARP (2008), their iconic Live Album and thinking to myself, What the hell … these guys sound even better live!!

Take a Bow MUSE, because you’ve certainly achieved a legendary status in my mind and created inside me a Stockholm Syndrome for your Hyper Music.


~ Damocles

Once formally known as the Rocket Baby Dolls … I almost wish they kept that namesake. But MUSE just looks and sounds way better.


Kirieinnocent beauty drawn and designed to perfection.

Welcome to the IMPACT series where I dissect notable and iconic sequences from games and movies, and how they broadened my mind and left a lasting impression on me, years to come. 


The Backdrop.

Recommended to me by a friend, Uzumaki by Junji Ito was one of the first manga I had read since my days in high school, having fallen out of love with the style and genre (hint: too many goddamn volumes).

To put it bluntly … I was thoroughly under-prepared for what was to come.

A Lovecraftian styled horror, based around the central theme of spirals, which are a common motif in Japanese culture (fishcakes to Zen gardens), Uzukami is a brilliant piece of work by renowned horror mangaka Junji Ito.

The manga deftly balances creative ways to twist the innocent symbol of a spiral with a foreboding atmosphere, to create body horror artwork that showcases Ito’s incredible visual style, blurring the line between horror and beauty.

The story follows Kirie, a young woman trapped in her coastal town, Kurozou-cho, as supernatural spirals begin to take over the denizens and twist them in increasingly bizarre ways.

Uzumaki kept me up for 2 nights, a no small feat. The story gripped me so thoroughly that I almost read all 3 volumes in a single sitting, after my first initial shock.

Shuichi’s father obsessing over spirals … much like how I became entranced by the story after the first chapter.

The Impact.

Like any good book, Uzumaki works best in a written format. Whilst I was unable to track down a physical copy, I was grateful that an online version kept the format relatively the same. What made Uzumaki work so particularly well, as the fact that it actually understands the actual concept of turning a page to properly shock you.

The end of the first initial chapter, ended with such a spectacularly gruesome, creative and bizarre image that I couldn’t actually stomach reading another page.

I had to stop and literally stare, my eyes transfixed by what I was looking at.

In a lot of ways, Junji Ito’s style remind me of H.R. Giger. Both men are capable of creating such twisted and bizarrely beautiful forms that your mind is unable to fully comprehend all the details that are being shown to you.

In Ito though, there is a simplistic beauty to his work, in contrast to Giger’s overly detailed art. Ito grabs you with his incredible eye for the right detail, so that his artistic creations get all the horrific glory they deserve amongst the more traditional beauty of his backgrounds and main leads.

In particular, there is an lovely juxtaposition Ito employs in all of his work, from Tomie to The Enigma at Amigara Fault. In all of his work, people are drawn beautifully, with particular attention paid to the hair, eyes and facial expressions. There is a simplistic faithfulness to the human expression, that is magnified further when people are screaming or reacting in horror to what is happening. It is this ability to craft people with varying details, from glasses, larger noses or different hair that make Junji Ito’s worlds seem realistic, thus magnifying the horror of the supernatural that occurs within them.

I was particularly struck by the accuracy in the way how Ito drew Shuichi‘s slow descent into nihilistic depression, that is only stirred momentarily by his love for Kirie.

Kirie in particular impressed me. I am always in awe at how beautiful the women in Ito’s worlds look. There is a tragic innocence to her beauty that only heighten the horror around her and make you long for her to escape intact, away from the situation she finds herself in.

In a lot of ways, Junji Ito’s artwork reminds me of Japanese aesthetic and style in general. Simplicity and obsessive attention to detail in equal measure, harmony achieved through a marriage of simplicity and complexity.

The moment I saw this, I knew that this story would only continue to worsen. Like a moth drawn to a electric light, I kept going even if it meant the doom of peaceful sleep.

The Enrichment

Beyond the obvious exposure to Japanese Horror which is, like everything concerning the Land of the Rising Sun, solely unique to the Japanese culture, Uzumaki made me appreciate the art of turning a page.

I realise now that there is a conscious decision to turn a page and actually be willing to commit yourself to what surprise is on the next page.

I was so used to what I call the Matthew Reilly effect, where I am so hooked into the pace of the story, that pages almost seem to flip themselves. I call it the Matthew Reilly effect, because his “airplane thrillers”, books you can read in a single sitting on a flight, are so furiously paced that you almost look like a adrenaline junkie reading his novels.

His books are like the ultimate, fast paced thrillers … they hit you so hard and fast, you’re on the floor gasping before you even register what just happened.

With Uzumaki I experienced the opposite. I didn’t want to see what was on the next page. Each page turn was a decision made purely out of morbid curiosity. I was afraid of what I was going to see, my imagination unable to keep pace with the twisted genius of Ito.

In some respects, reading a Junji Ito book is a lot like exploring abandoned buildings. You have absolutely no idea what is around the corner. But it is dark, moody, terrifying and somehow your feet propel you forward despite the dangers.

You approach each corner, expecting the worst, slowly and with a fast-beating heart.

Only in Uzumaki, you actually encounter something way worse than a squatter asleep in a corner of a room.

Another thing I learned to appreciate is the way how body horror works. What I am terrified of the Alien in the film Alien, isn’t the actual creature itself. It is the fact that it inserts its’ bizarre appendage inside of you and creates something inside of you, that burst out of your chest.

Body horror in Uzumaki takes a whole new meaning, with snails, hair, pseudo-cannibalism, pregnancy and drills. Ito even throws in a goddamn Jack-In-The-Box horror gimmick that never made me look at a car the same way again. Each fresh take on the spiral drove me further and further into the story, my initial revulsion now twisted into a bizarre obsession with how Junji would interpret the spiral in new horrific ways.

I completely understand now, why body horror is arguably one of the worst genres. The idea that your body can transform into a nest of thorns or is inextricably linked with thousands of others in a mass of limbs is unsettling in the extreme and I can still picture Ito’s all-too-detailed artwork depicting those situations.

Body horror … that stuff will never make you look at your body in the same way again …The Fly (1986) anyone?

The final element that really helped me become a fan of Junji Ito’s work, was his exploration and mastery of Japanese Horror. Horror in a Japanese setting has always been it’s own creative niche.

It predominantly plays on the aesthetic of Japanese culture, which is full of simple, clean lines that really plays with light in a special way, capable of creating vibrant atmosphere or moody shadows. J-Horror also delves heavily into the lonely, isolated psyche, with suicide and a certain fatalistic acceptance of fate being key themes that influence the narrative.

In Uzumaki, Junji Ito uses the coastal isolation of Kurozou-cho as a prison of sorts, to seal the town to it’s fate. The people are unable to escape the overwhelming power and influence of the spiral, thus touching on the fatalistic themes of J-Horror. This inability to do anything about what is happening, is a signature of Lovecraftian Horror, in which characters are literally powerless to the whims and desires of the supernatural acting on them.

There is actually a bit of a strange link between Kurozou-cho and the H.P. Lovecraft novel, The Shadow Over Innsmouth which features a similar plot and atmosphere to Uzumaki, in that a quiet town on the coastline is experiencing supernatural phenomena, only in Lovecraft’s novel, it is the doing of the Deep Ones.

I particularly despise reading Lovecraftian Horror novels, as they invoke such a strong feeling of fatalism, helplessness and dread. I hate that sensation of powerlessness, that nothing you do can prolong the inevitable. As a rebellious bastard, this is the ultimate form of horror that can be conjured up.

Zombies can be shot, Lycans can be neutralized by silver, Vampyrs by garlic, crucifixes and stakes and Kaijus overwhelmed by firepower.

But the one thing that can never be defeated are the Old Ones and that … is something I find deeply disturbing.

Which is why the atmosphere of dread works so brilliantly well in Uzumaki. Once drawn in, you can only go deeper and deeper into the spiral. There is no way out.

What the fuck. Why am I reading this still? Why do I keep feeding my nightmare fuel? I remember thinking to myself when I saw her eyeball just … disappear into the void of a spiral.

The Culmination.

Uzumaki by Junji Ito is a masterpiece of manga writing. It is a tour-de-force of Ito’s creativity and interest in the horror genre and an actual piece of artwork in its’ own right.

It is Ito’s arguably most complete work as well, with a relatively clear overarching narrative and a lot of fun and bizarre ways to interpret the spiral. I must credit him for his ability to keep the theme of the spiral going through each iteration of horror, because I will confess to not really seeing that many spirals in nature itself.

Even now, whenever I see a spiral, I get this strange feeling of dread, something that I associate directly to this manga. What was once an innocent symbol, has now been indelibly linked to Junji Ito’s work.

That … is talent and a clear example of how badly (in a good way) Uzumaki has affected me.

If you have the time, definitely go buy a copy of Uzumaki, as all 3 volumes are now compiled into 1 cohesive book.

I will say, the images in this blog post are just some of the artwork that Junji created. I deliberately avoided some of the best and most shocking parts to ensure you get maximum enjoyment upon your first foray into the world of Uzumaki.

Even as a non-horror fan, I was entranced all the way through and that is why it has left such a strong impression on me.

I hadn’t felt a proper rush in reading something truly original in years when I first started the first page of Uzumaki and to this day, I am thankful my friend recommended me it, despite being thoroughly horrified and potentially scarred by the whole experience.


~ Damocles

The fate of their story still occasionally haunts me. So much beauty amongst such ugliness.

The Mask of Zorro (IMPACT Series)

The Mask of Zorro (1998)

Welcome to the IMPACT series where I dissect notable and iconic sequences from games and movies, and how they broadened my mind and left a lasting impression on me, years to come. 

Do you know how to use that thing?

Yes! The pointy end goes into the other man ….

The Backdrop.

As a younger man, I was fortunate enough to be blessed with parents that had good taste in cinema. From my introduction to Star Wars by my mother no less, to the Life of Brian by my English comedy fanatic father, I think my love for film only grew more and more as I got older, until I finally became a full blown pretentious film critic upon viewing my first French drama called Three Worlds at the Melbourne French Film Festival.

The Mask of Zorro is one of my all-time favourite films, introduced to me by my mother, who seemed to switch interest in leading men, depending on what she heard from her artistic sisters. One day it might be an interest in Antonio Banderas, the other week there was an unrequited love for George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven.

Regardless, The Mask of Zorro hit me at roughly the same age as the Alejandro Murietta, the titular lead of the film, when he saved Zorro’s life in the introductory scene. I felt the same amount of excitement and wonder and romance as Alejandro did, when watching Zorro fight off “hundreds” of Don Diego de la Vega’s soldiers.

Fast forward a few years and dramatic events later, the older Alejandro, portrayed by an incredibly charismatic and rougish Antonio Banderas, whose mannerisms I immediately began to mimic, then runs into the retired and original Zorro, played by the ever excellent Anthony Hopkins.

Thus the shenanigans begins …

Arguably still my favourite scene in cinematic history, showcasing the two leads’ flirtation with each other on screen.

The Impact.

First, I would like to address the type of film this is.

This is an old-school blockbuster film. In much of the same vein as The Mummy (1999) which actually came out a year later than Zorro, this is an adventure movie, with romance, revenge and realised characters. This is a film that almost solely gets by, on the chemistry of the leads and the strength of the story between the characters. The plot is fun, dramatic and really in service to allow how each character plays against one another.

It is a delicate balancing act, but Martin Campbell deftly weaves a lovely narrative and interplay between the antagonists and the protagonists. You see how both generations affect each other, the young dealing with the sins of the old, and how new life can be found amongst one another.

This old-school film is exactly what I adore, as a child and as an adult. It is everything I ask for in a film, with moments of incredible darkness (the scene between Captain Love and Alejandro was one of the most tense moments I’ve ever felt as a child, and ending the scene with that sip from the jar horrified me), the incredible romantic chemistry between Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas and the elder wisdom from Hopkins … there is everything to enjoy in this film and just have a fun ride.

The second impact that this film placed on me, was the romance. As a rather devoted heterosexual and admirer of women, I do understand that getting a Welsh actress to portray someone of Latin origin is problematic, but as a young man, I didn’t care and will freely admit that the character of Elena got me intrigued in Latina women (Yes, I am also aware of Hopkins casting as well). But it was the famous tango scene between the two of them that made me desire to have a dancing partner.

I think I’ve lost count the amount of times, I pretended to waltz, step and tango across the room with an invisible woman to the music of Spanish Tango by James Horner, but it has stuck with me very much in the same way Pulp Fiction’s Twist Contest dance did. However with all that extra energy, vigour and insane sensuality that Latin America is known for.

Need I mention the second dance that the two characters do with swords later? I think that scene speaks for itself and I will freely admit that in my university fencing days, I longed to disrobe a woman with the same precise swordplay Zorro performed.

The third impact was the music by the late James Horner. Whilst most audiences first experience with Horner’s musical mastery was the amazing Titanic, my first ever was Zorro and let me tell you, that alongside Jerry Goldsmith’s work in The Mummy, these were scores that were etched forever in my mind.

Nothing quite captures the spirit of adventure, romance, fun and derring-do like the drums, guitars and horns of Zorro’s score. Just go ahead and listen to The Plaza of Execution and tell me, you can’t imagine Zorro fighting a hundred men in his cape, mask and hat, alongside his trusty steed Tornado.

And that is just the first song … my all time favourite and one that I used to fence to, was Stealing the Map. It perfectly armed me mentally for my fencing bouts and I felt invincible when flailing my foil around.

I miss Horner’s work immensely. He just had that uncanny ability to mix adventure and romance in his melodies and I am forever grateful for his work, especially in The Rocketeer (1991).

The final element that influenced me greatly, alongside Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl is something I’ve already hinted at … fencing.

Having done 3 years of Olympic style fencing, I can rightfully say that swordsmanship has changed much over the years since Zorro was on-screen, but the spirit of having fun while wielding deadly sharp blades remain true to this day. Swords, unlike guns, have a fascinating elegance and beauty to them. They are an extension of you and serve as a strange way of communicating with your opponent. The way how blades clash and dance around you, is a wholly unique experience and I am forever grateful that I grew up watching films with amazing sword choreography.

But it was this film that really showed me how swords were supposed to be wielded. You don’t swing wildly and yel intimidatingly. Instead you lower yourself into an en garde position, and with minimalist movements defend yourself and wound your opponent.

As a child, I loved the training montage, but as an adult fencer, I appreciate it ever more now, for its flashy but functional depiction in how swordsmanship is actually meant to be. The swordplay in this film, compared to others, really showcase how fencing is all about expression as it is an incredibly elegant way to kill.

As a young man … this scene is what got me into dancing.

The Enrichment.

Beyond developing my obsession with fencing, The Mask of Zorro opened my interests to American history, both North and South. Previously only interested in Egyptian, I had my eyes opened to other types of pyramids other than Giza. I grew fascinated with Incan, Mayan and Aztecs and their bloody rituals and am still horrified by the Spanish treatment of these civilisations.

Zorro also taught me the value of folklore and how this type of hero was common across the world, but especially in areas that were often downtrodden and destitute. After all, it was these type of heroes that gave people hope and a voice, a champion that fought for them and represented a dream that they could be greater. I idolised Zorro as much as the people of California did in the film. Symbology … a powerful force to be reckoned with; I still see the Z as Zorro’s icon.

My taste in music also expanded dramatically, with a keen interest in Latin American music. From tango music, to enjoying the guitar work of Rodrigo Y Gabriela, there isn’t much I don’t enjoy musically from South America. Their infectious rhythms, beat and ability to tap into the subconscious desire to let loose, is always a delight to indulge in. There is such a strong passion and zeal for life in their music, and I think it’s impossible to deny their impact on my own life, in getting up and moving around. Every time I play a song from Latin America with furious guitar work, my feet move of their own accord.

My desire to dance only increased tenfold after watching the film, and I wanted to be as light on my feet as possible. Beyond my lascivious desire to dance with beautiful women, which has not abated since my teenager years, I have actually genuinely considered taking dancing classes and enjoy the act of dancing a lot.

Which to the amusement of my retail co-workers translate a lot into my movements at work, with my endless pirouettes around corners, backwards walking, and needless energetic movements.

But how else are you meant to move around tight spaces with fun and speed?

You hide it … with this. When is Anthony Hopkins never not wise? Congratulations to his Oscar win recently!

The Culmination.

The Mask of Zorro can be attributed to a whole lot of things. As a film, I love the adventure, the romance and the score immensely. It is the type of film that can be rewatched as a whole, not certain scenes because of the strength of the package being presented. There is not a dull moment in the film and I often find myself rewatching it as least once a year.

The film taught me a great deal, and instilled in me a passion for dancing, swordsmanship and Latina music. I often wondered where I would be without these films to generate such strong interests, but I am grateful they helped shaped me into the man I am today.

I’ve yet to book dancing classes though.

That is still on my to-do list, to master at least a dance. Preferably tango.


~ Damocles

I miss these swashbuckling, romantic films. If only we could bring them back.

Samurai Champloo (IMPACT Series)

Samurai Champloo (2004)

Welcome to the IMPACT series where I dissect notable and iconic sequences from games and movies, and how they broadened my mind and left a lasting impression on me, years to come. 

Find the samurai who smells of sunflowers.

The Backdrop

I will the first guy to admit that I am not much of an anime viewer. My foray into anime mostly consist of Studio Ghibli and a few limited episodes of Digimon, Pokemon or One Piece that I caught on TV early in the morning before I went to school.

I am aware of the cultural impact of many different series, and have researched a whole host of them, from DragonBall Z to Attack on Titan. I know enough about the lore and the plot to engage in some basic conversation about the most popular anime.

But I don’t watch any of them. Maybe it’s the length of the series that prevent me from getting into them … Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.

OK, that is taking McCauley’s advice a bit too literally, but the point is … I can’t really find myself getting into long shows.

But for the works of Shinichiro Watanabe I will gladly devote many waking hours obsessing over his artistic creations.

Samurai Champloo is my favourite anime of all time and I don’t think there will ever be a time when I won’t treasure my first viewing of this revolutionary anime.

This anime is as treasured to me as a kiss from a woman. It is of that much significance, and importance to me that I rank it that highly. Expect this to be an incredibly long swan-song.

From the very onset, you know this is going to be a unique show. The blend of samurai and hip-hop is remarkably original. This is Watanabe’s take on Edo-era Japan.

The Impact.

When I first started watching the show, I was expecting the same level of quality I had experienced in Cowboy Bebop. I got that and a whole lot more of emotional resonance than I was expecting. This is a show that picked me up, abused me and threw me around in a cage before depositing me onto the floor, leaving behind a emotional wreck.

The gauntlet in which this show made me run through, with its incredible visuals, score and characterisation left me breathless at the end. Certain episodes had me bawling my eyes out, others; laughing out loud and many smiling like an idiot.

Jin, Mugen, Fuu … they became my friends over the course of 26 episodes. I wanted to hang out with them more. I adored their dynamic, with Jin being my idol, for his cool, calm, collected nature. I loved Mugen’s unpredictability and his wild nature that clashed with Jin’s more measured approach to life. Fuu was the sweetheart that no-one could hate, a girl that was the true glue that held the trio together and the heroine of the story.

I was addicted to the adventures they went on, the multiple twist and turns, the strange discovery of how much Japan was changing … modernising and how it seemed to leave people behind. I loved how many of the episodes were miniature stories that showed the real cost of modernisation and the varying attitudes people had to such rapid change.

In particular, the ability to create such compelling, unique and fascinating side characters in the space of 20 minutes is nothing short of remarkable. I can still recall multiple characters like the blind Sara, the tragic Shino and the disturbing Umanosuke with crystal clarity, despite their brief introductions and encounters with the main protagonists.

The pacing of the story overall is amazing, Watanabe’s deft touch to keep the story fresh and engaging whilst juggling an adventurous tone, a sign of a true artist at work. He knows exactly when to inject action, emotion, humour and drama and barely makes a step wrong throughout the entire series.

In particular, episode 11, Gamblers and Gallantry is the one that struck me with all the force of an emotional bullet, the tragedy of the ending leaving me a wreck afterwards. I recall feeling hollowed out by the mix of emotions that it stirred in me and swearing from that moment on, I would immediately download every single song featured in the series, just to capture this feeling I was experiencing.

It was sorrow, melancholia, goodbye and farewell, mixed in with a healthy dose of love, regret and necessary separation and all of these feelings were coloured with nostalgia.

No anime since, has managed to capture this complex array of emotions. Arguably, no piece of fiction I have read, watched or listened to since has managed to get anywhere close.

And I haven’t even touched on the beauty of the animation yet …

Jin, my icon. I loved his swordplay, his cryptic, stoic personality and how he was so similar to how I am … a silent man with a soft heart, quick with his sarcastic wits and his sharp sword.

The Enrichment

There is a lot I took away from Samurai Champloo. I will break it down according to the subheading. It goes without saying that this anime has impacted me immensely in my life. This is in part due to the timing of when I watched it (I was a teenager) and the fact that I was also a massive Japan history buff at the time, having read the James Clavell’s epic Shogun.

A) Samurai Culture

I was also obsessed with samurai culture when I had finished reading Shogun, so to see this fresh take on what were traditionally stiff, honour-bound warriors was quite a shock to the system. It was the swordplay and action that gripped me, seeing how quick and deadly the samurai were and how cruel they could be, with their superior skills and weapon. I loved seeing how Jin and Mugen got injured during fights, how their styles clashed frequently and how they seemed to attack any obstacles head on.

More importantly though, the show made me aware of how anachronistic the samurai culture was becoming in a more modern world, and what that must have felt like for the class that once ruled Japan and defined its culture. You could really see how honour could turn easily into corruption and malice, how the extreme modernisation of Japan created an arrogant, gleeful middle class that were previously subjugated under the noble class of the samurai. So many episodes dealt with how Jin, Mugen and Fuu’s quest was out of touch with the times, the trio barely scrapping by on their adventure.

The infusion of hip-hop in the music and scenes lent this gangster vibe to the three protagonists. They were freed from the constraints of the society they were living in, and due to hip-hop’s natural tendency to encourage rebellious behaviour, it made you sympathise and envy these characters and their inherent freedom.

Of course they were destitute, struggling to find food and board, but there was a freedom and simplicity to their life. They were on a quest to find the samurai that smelled like sun-flowers. Life had a meaning and to hell with what society thought. Isn’t this what the essence of hip-hop is? To make do with what you have, and celebrate life regardless. Sometimes it is better to be poor and free to be able to express yourself than well-off and constrained by society’s rules and pressure.

Jin, Mugen and Fuu did just that.

B) Nujabes

What can I say about Nujabes that hasn’t been said? I will probably end up making an IMPACT post on Nujabes because his music has been so influential and instrumental in my development growing up. There was a time when all I listened to was Nujabes and I couldn’t bear a single day without hearing his smooth, unique take on jazz and hip-hop.

One of the main reasons why Samurai Champloo works as well as it does, is because Nujabes’ score is the perfect accompaniment to the tone and style of the anime. His score is evocative, slow, and singularly Samurai Champloo. It is moody without the sad overtones, nostalgic without cynicism and emotional without deviating too far into happiness or sorrow. The hip-hop influences kick in during action sequences, whilst the more mellow jazz style soars over the emotional scenes.

To listen to Nujabes’ score is to tap into the unique appeal of Japan, where you hearken for a time that existed long ago and the world seemed more exciting, fresh and alive. His music reminds me of a wonderful dream, where you visit incredible places in your sleep, and when you wake feel that sense of deprivation, of being robbed of something that never existed.

It is why I always listen to his album, Samurai Champloo – Departures when reading Haruki Murakami books. A dream like sound to accompany a dream like read.

C) Melancholy

Samurai Champloo more or less weaponised melancholy as an emotion and turned it against me. I actually became entranced by the sensation of melancholia and would often put myself into a deliberate funk just to capture that emotion again. There are so many tragic sequences in Champloo that evokes this sensation and I couldn’t help but wallow in them constantly.

It actually took me awhile to recover from this addiction to this emotion. It is inherently self-destructive but when utilised right, it really allows you to explore all facets of your identity and self. Melancholia is almost crucial to self-introspection. You long for a time when you were “yourself” and so you end up diving deep to try and find yourself again. Samurai Champloo style, art and music really allowed me to weaponise the melancholic feeling against myself and create actual mind palaces where I could truly explore all facets of my identity without self hatred or loathing.

The series’ style was so influential in that aspect, that my most private and healing sanctuary is actually based on a location in the series, and I retreat there often when confused, and in search of meaning. I can picture every single door, room and location in that mind palace and I have always found answers to my questions there whenever I visit.

In a lot of ways, Samurai Champloo allowed me to be my own therapist, guide and conscience without ever having to resort to a therapist or psychologist. I have to thank this show and Murakami for allowing me to truly unlock my psychological id.

D) Japan’s Artistic Style

Samurai Champloo, much like Studio Ghibli films, showcased some of the finest Japanese modern aesthetics I had seen in a while and perhaps ever. Whilst Ghibli emphasises immense detail in all aspects of its animation, Champloo employs a unique blurriness to its art style. It knows when to showcase clean, lean lines of the characters and then have that juxtaposed against a blurrier but still distinct backdrop.

Water in Champloo has a mystical effect and a shimmer that isn’t seen in other animation studio works. I particularly love how the backdrop of a lot of scenes evoke a certain emotional response, whether it is eeriness or startlingly beauty. It is such a testament to actual Japanese landscape that are one or the other.

When it comes to action, I love the glint effect that Wanatabe showcases when a sword is flickering through the air, at intense speed and the overall dynamic of clashes, dodges and final moves.

The opening credits, which I have employed liberally throughout this blog, is a stunning showcase of animation, talent and art. The way how dark cel shaded lines interplay with brighter colours and semi realistic depictions of animals and landscapes create this unique art-style that can’t be replicated by anyone else.

Like any sad fan, I have a lot of Fuu wallpapers. Her style is so remarkably entrancing, which when combined with unique poses and her kimono, creates a really incredible visual art piece. And if there is one anime that generates endless wallpapers, it is Samurai Champloo.

Fuu, the girl next door with a naive innocence. The emotional heart of the story, it is through her, we as the audience see how Japan has changed and become a strange mythical wonderland of danger, beauty and intoxicating adventure. I got far too many images of her scattered around on my PC.

The Culmination

Samurai Champloo has been responsible for a lot in my life. It has allowed me to discover more about myself, to experience a phenomenal story that is uniquely Japanese and exposed me to the genius that is Nujabes.

I found a soundtrack that I could listen to forever and let it heal parts of my life.

I learned to trust and unlock my subconscious and seek the truth in all the things I do.

I made some friends along the way and waved a sad but happy farewell to them.

I learned to understand and process deeper emotions and how to recognise them in the future.

Samurai Champloo was responsible for all of it. No other media has managed to achieve so much in just 1 season of episodic TV. It is as deeply personal to me as my first novel I ever wrote.

If I had to answer the question about an anime that actually “changed” parts of my life, it would be Samurai Champloo. It’s impact on me cannot be understated.

If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and check it out, alongside Cowboy Bebop. They are the gold standard when it comes to anime and Japanese story-telling. If you refuse to do so, then just listen to the entirely suis generis genre that Nujabes created called nu-jazz.

Wind, Limitless and Benevolence.

Fuu, Mugen and Jin.


~ Damocles

Shiki no Uta – The song that will always conjure up the greatest sense of melancholia and nostalgia for a time I have never experienced. If you ever catch me listening to this song … just leave me be. I”ll be too far gone in a place that no one will ever reach me. A land where only my memories exist and I’m wandering around trying to touch them … relive them.

Mission Impossible (IMPACT Series)

Mission Impossible: Fallout

Welcome to the IMPACT series where I dissect notable and iconic sequences from games and movies, and how they broadened my mind and left a lasting impression on me, years to come. 

Your mission, should you choose to accept it …

The Backdrop

It all started with my first proper viewing of Mission Impossible II, where to my shock, I could actually see a film set in Australia. While it was Sydney, (as a Melburnian, it gives me great pleasure to continually derive that horrible town) it was a genuine delight to actually see my home country being portrayed positively and gorgeously on film.

Mission Impossible II gave me my first real inkling of John Woo style action, with absolutely ridiculous set pieces that still captures my heart today. In particular, I loved the climatic chase sequence, especially right after the big twist. The score, the action, the glorious slow motion and the absolute insanity Tom Cruise was able to perform with his motorbike and Beretta all culminated in a cinema experience that enraptured a young Damocles.

The third movie, a typical J.J. Abrams fare, was fun, but it wasn’t until Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol that I really began to fall in love with the franchise again.

Oakleys, Triumph, Beretta, Cruise …. everything screamed 2000s and I still adore it.

The Impact

If I had to distill the Mission Impossible franchise down to its now winning formula, it can all essentially be traced back to Tom Cruise, the core fundamental element as to why the series work as well as it does.

The man does almost all of his stunts, and somehow only seems to get more impressive and extravagant with age.

But what really seals the deal is the amount of fun each film is. It is not as dark and serious as other spy thrillers like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) nor is it as old fashioned as Bond. Instead it tends to sell the action-adventure element more, with fun situational humour, like Ethan Hunt’s clear reluctance to fight at certain times (Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation) and even more enjoyable ways to marvel at spy gadgetry.

I mean, the entire mask reveal gimmick is campy, fun and silly. But the series lean into that element and rewards the audience with genuinely clever ways to hide that gadget with each new iteration.

This is what makes the franchise great. It isn’t afraid of its history, and it prefers to disguise its wheels, than reinvent them. I have loved all the small gadgets that the Mission Impossible series have created, the key ones being the cushion grenade gadget that was only briefly seen for 5 seconds in Ghost Protocol, the suitcase G36K and the giant remote drum mag fed Barrett M82A1 turrets in III, and always fun, disguised sniper rifles in Rogue Nation especially the alto flute.

If the mask gadget is always prevalent in the series, I also always enjoy the new “drop” they premiere with each film. In the first film, it was the CIA HQ, the second, the Biocyte building, then the third ramped things up with a pendulum swing (one of my personal favourites). The fourth was a fun magnetic free fall, the fifth, a spectacular water stunt and finally with Fallout, the now incredible HALO jump sequence.

It is quite a simple formula that is always reinvented slightly with each new film, but the DNA of the Mission Impossible franchise is unshakeable. Tom Cruise, a drop stunt, “Halloween Masks”, globe-trotting and a new stylistic approach to the film by the directors.

Although, I do love that in order to sell the films further, Tom Cruise now has to top every single stunt he did before.

I thought the Ghost Protocol’s Burj Khalifa skyscraper sequence was nuts …. but this was in the opening scene of Rogue Nation just because it was fucking awesome not for any real plot purposes.

The Enrichment

Beyond an appreciation for fictional gadgets, (I mean, who doesn’t want a pair of gloves that can climb the tallest building in the world … until they of course fail, but then that is what the cushion grenade is for.) I’ve also grown to enjoy watching Ethan Hunt’s dogged determination and insouciance to the obstacles mounted in his way.

There is a strange heart to the character’s sheer commitment to the cause and his ability to adapt, improvise and overcome seemingly “impossible” challenges never ceases to add to the drama and fun set pieces being laid out on film.

But the real impact comes from running.

The first real glorified running sequence, came from Mission Impossible III with its two minute long sequence along a river in China, perfectly highlighting Cruise’s perfect running form.

As fun as that was, it was really the Ghost Protocol chase and the incredible London sequence in Fallout that really sold me on the power of the Cruise run.

Admittedly, one of the biggest things that I love about physical exercise is running. There’s an incredible combination of feelings when I run. I adore the speed, the sensation of feet on pavement, the wind blasting past your scalp … I think it’s intoxicating.

Whenever I see a truly good running sequence on-screen, my body has a visceral reaction to match it. My legs feel charged up, my heartbeat starts accelerating and my mind starts to focus on building as much momentum and speed as possible.

I’ve chased trams to stops, raced cars to light poles, pursued bicycles to overtake, and beaten buses to stations, all of them attempts to get that winning feeling of running faster than something.

If Casino Royale (2006) made me a traceur, Mission Impossible made me a runner.

There’s nothing quite like a good foot chase on screen, through crowds, through sandstorms and across rooftops and when you add the Mission Impossible score to a run, you’ll find yourself covering kilometres in seconds.

Run Ethan, Run.

The Culmination

Mission Impossible has achieved a rare thing. It has only gotten better with each iteration and more bombastic than the last, an incredibly rare feat for a franchise over 25 years old. Anchored by Tom Cruise’s dedication to stunt work and fun charisma, and rounded out by the humour of Simon Pegg, the friendship of Ving Rhames, and the feminine wiles of Rebecca Ferguson (who plays a believable and excellent female intelligence operative amazingly well), this series keeps on delivering with more and more impossible sequences that thrill.

I love this series for the same reason, why I loved The Mummy (1999). They are just a good time at the cinema. They don’t pretend to be high art, nor speak a terribly compelling message about the state of the world. The characters are fun, light-hearted and likeable, carried along by their screen charisma and occasional joke. The score is bombastic, especially Lorne Balfe’s latest interpretation in Mission Impossible: Fallout which somehow never seems to fail to give me goosebumps.

Good vs. Evil, the story is as simple as that, but the stakes only seem to get higher with each film, as Ethan Hunt find himself in more and more precarious situations to save the world. Mission Impossible is all about having fun in the cinema. It is the cinematic equivalent of strapping yourself into a rollercoaster ride, where you will thrill along with Cruise, with every single death-defying stunt he performs.

In fact, this seems to be a sneaky way to build instant emotional rapport with Ethan Hunt, a method that is unlikely copied by any other action franchise. When you see Cruise clinging to the side of an Airbus A400M, his hair being split apart by the wind and his legs swept off the fuselage of the plane by the speed in which he is travelling, you cannot help but feel concerned for him. The character and the actor merge into this strange medley of fear, adrenaline and concern and you find yourself holding your breath and marvelling at everything going on. In fact everything happens so fast, that it is almost logical that Hunt needs to be clinging onto the side of a plane …

It is a wholly unique aspect to this franchise, that you have such a strong emotional connection that is derived almost purely from dangerous stunt work from the lead actor.

And that … is something to be celebrated. You can’t help but admire a guy who will do anything just to entertain you, even if it means shortening his own statistical probability of dying.

Man, I wish I had the spy lifestyle … the places around the world I would run and do crazy stunts in …


~ Damocles

In a lot of ways, Ethan Hunt represents to me, the ideal action hero. He’s multi-talented at a whole host of skills from action driving, to pistol marksmanship. He’s also reckless and willing to take insane calculated risks for the mission. I only hope I am as daring in my life as he is to do a pendulum swing off one building and onto another … metaphorically, of course

Grand Theft Auto Franchise (IMPACT Series)

Grand Theft Auto … the most I have ever spent in a game franchise … time-wise, money-wise and addiction-wise. I’m not ashamed to admit it either.

Welcome to the IMPACT series where I dissect notable and iconic sequences from games and movies, and how they broadened my mind and left a lasting impression on me, years to come. 

You’re like every other asshole … You made a bit of money, and you became a turd!

The Backdrop

This is going to be more or less an incredibly long love letter to a franchise I have adored since my first time starting up my Playstation 2 and loading in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

I do plan on deep-diving into the series, with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto IV, Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto: Online.

But this is just about the franchise as a whole.

So why is it so impactful?

One of the biggest appeals that Grand Theft Auto has always held for me, is the complete and utter freedom one has to act in a realistically created world.

There are no games quite as expansive, lovingly crafted and insanely detailed oriented as a Grand Theft Auto game upon release. The world crafted in-game is almost slavishly faithful to its real-world counterpart.

San Andreas legitimately allowed me to enjoy 3 American cities in a single game, with its copies of San Fransisco (San Fierro), Los Angeles (Los Santos) and Las Vegas (Las Venturas) in addition to expansive desert and wooded countryside landscapes.

The scope of that game … is still unmatched today. No game I have ever played since, allowed a player to legitimately fly from one city to another in a plane and find themselves in an actual “world” to experience.

Rockstar Games have always been an incredibly ambitious and provocative company. They thrive off negative controversy, an iconic element of their marketing strategy and they refuse to release games until they are goddamn ready. Every single game of theirs, has been an event in the entertainment industry.

The sheer amount of marketing that Rockstar Games is capable of, on a global scale, ensures that every single person is aware of their product. It is quite literally, a hostile takeover of physical and virtual marketing when they release a game.

And so it should be, because thus far, they have yet to release a bad one. Even their more obscure titles, like Bully or L.A. Noire have rabid cult followers who are still breathe and live their games and cry out for a sequel.

But it was with Grand Theft Auto, Rockstar Games cemented their place in history. Its’ sprawling, realistic worlds with all the depravity of real life, from sex, violence, and crime gives players full agency to do whatever they feel fit to do, within the confines of the game.

You have immense creative freedom, complete moral ambiguity and intense levels of customisation.

It’s the ultimate sandbox to experience reality like you never have before and never could in the actual world.

I’ll have two number 9s, a number 9 large, a number 6 with extra dip, a number 7, two number 45s, one with cheese and … a large soda.

The Impact.

I have always been a person who loved reality more than a lot of fiction. There is just too much in this world that is incredible and more bizarre than the strangest alternate reality devised.

So on a personal level, all I’ve ever really wanted from a game is a sandbox that is realistic and contemporary, with the freedom to shoot, run, hide and interact like how I’ve always wanted to in reality, but without being sent to jail for it.

Grand Theft Auto, from the very first time I played San Andreas, allowed me that escapism. I became obsessed with the game around the same time The Bourne Supremacy (2004) came out.

Taunting the cops to chase me, whilst I drove away in a yellow taxi cab, to emulate that iconic chase sequence at the climax resulted in both film and game merged in an experience I would treasure even now.

With absolute fondness, I still recall slamming my yellow taxi cab around Las Venturas’ highways, avoiding police traps and playing the throbbing score by John Powell “Bim Bam Smash” on a loop over the Self Radio.

Nothing else quite topped that experience in a game, for a very long time.

That is until Grand Theft Auto IV came out and I became equally obsessed with recreating film moments in Liberty City, and my addiction grew even further, because now the driving and shooting mechanic had become buttery smooth and I was in love anew with the driving physics.

The hours I spent, role-playing as a vigilante FIB agent, killing gangsters with Niko Bellic in a suit and tie, wielding a Glock … are too numerous to count and too shameful to admit.

The simple fact is, the game itself encourages you to recreate iconic moments you’ve seen in film and pop culture. Beyond obvious references in Grand Theft Auto’s stories, the amount of customisation for your character in terms of clothing, tattoos, haircuts and in some cases, even weight, meant that you can express yourself however you see fit.

Then there are the vehicles …

Every single game has been an incredible delight to drive, cruise, fly and pilot. I loved the heavier feel of the cars in Grand Theft Auto IV, the sheer variety in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and now the overall experience of flying across a stunning realisation of Los Angeles in Grand Theft Auto V. Whether it is sport cars, sedans, Pimp-mobiles, tractors …. if there is a fun vehicle, you can find it in Grand Theft Auto and modify it to your heart’s desire.

The sensation of flying across San Andreas in a prop plane with God rays reflecting off the surface of the plane, while a sunset slowly comes down across the horizon is still as stunning as it was when it first came out.

With Grand Theft Auto Online, I think I have lost count of the number of vehicles I own. I became, quite literally addicted to the premise of earning money so I could own more cars. As a car fanatic, the garage collection you can build in Online is so vast, that you can actually forget which cars you own.

At the time of writing this, I believe I own close to 200 cars in the game, with almost every kind of imaginable vehicle I have ever wanted in reality. The classic Batmobile from 1989, numerous Ferraris, two replicas of the F1 Red Bull RB7 challenger, a Bond-styled Aston Martin DB5, an Aston Martin V8 Volante, and even the latest Aston Martin Valkyrie. There are numerous Porsches, Ferraris, BMWs, Mustangs, Nissan GTRs, armoured variants of classic coupes, Bentley Continentals, McLaren F1, McLaren Longtail, and even a Mercedes 300SL.

The list could go on forever, because in the years since its release, Rockstar has only continued to build the endless list of cars inspired by real world counterparts in the game.

And I want them all.

No other game I have ever played, has inspired such greed in me. I haven’t even started on my personal yacht, boats, planes (a goddamn V-22 Osprey) and now with the latest Cayo Perico update, a frigging submarine with its personal Bell H-13 Sioux styled helicopter and even a submersible Ferrari/Lamborghini vehicle.

In Grand Theft Auto Online, there is nothing outside the realm of purchase and in all seriousness, that is 90% of the charm of the game. I have always wanted to own all of these things in reality and the game makes it so easy to do so.

They gave away free go-karts … just so you could throw snowballs from them at random players. Rockstar generosity and marketing genius at play.

The Enrichment.

There are a lot of things that I’ve learnt from Grand Theft Auto. But I want to distil it down to three major points.

Music. Marketing. Decade Recap.

With the Cayo Perico Heist update, it really opened my eyes to just how much of a “record company” Rockstar is. The music selection and licensing is obscene for a game of its size, with over 20 radio stations. Grand Theft Auto might boast the biggest contemporary collection of music in any game ever made. They are are so casual about their power in the music industry, that the legendary Dr. Dre can just show up as a cameo in a game cutscene and surprise everyone.

What makes it all the more astonishing is that without fail, every single GTA has managed to perfectly sum up the decade in music. I have never heard a bad selection of music in-game ever. It was Vice City that managed to grab the absolute best of the 80s and divide them into incredible radio stations complete with false advertising. Not only were the songs amazing to drive along to, it built the immersion to another level whilst playing.

San Andreas killed it with their 90s selection of songs, the game actually instilling in me, a deep appreciation for rap music. Grand Theft Auto IV was an amazing eclectic mix of everything, even surprising me with their Russian taste and really proving that immigrant music can be just as amazing as mainstream hits.

The more said about Grand Theft Auto V‘s music the better. Everything contemporary, most of it new and unheard of, has exploded on the radio stations in the game. You can hear music from Detroit, bump along to UK underground, dance to the latest club mixes and their nightclub DJs mixes rival some of the best music heard in reality. It is truly astonishing how many unique songs have been made just for Grand Theft Auto. I mean, even Gorillaz made a MUSIC VIDEO for their song using footage of their GTA gameplay.

Which brings me to my next point about Marketing.

One of the most obvious standout features about Rockstar as a game company, is their ability to thrive off negative press. Ever since its release, GTA has become the number one pick for hell-bent politicians and angry parents to blame for the corruption of their children, instead of looking inwards at poor parenting.

Rockstar has done everything in their power to further enrage those fires and thus drive up sales of their games, because suddenly when something becomes forbidden, it only serves to fuel the allure. But beyond that marketing philosophy of “bad press is better than no press”, are the numerous tactics that Rockstar has employed to generate hype around their games.

The Cayo Perico Heist was promoted first in-game, when dead bodies started washing ashore on Vespucci beach, at specific locations and at random times. Then there was a strange message that mentioned that the Casino was under construction for something big. Then out of nowhere Gorillaz released their music video for The Valley of the Pagans ft.Beck. This was then followed by a cryptic trailer that hinted at an island and a submarine ping?

Then to increase further hype, they showcased the actual trailer and the music was absolutely killer, encouraging you to think that you needed a holiday away from the mainland of Los Santos and they were teasing all new radio stations, 2 new places to party and socialise and jobs to do for the DJs in-game.

I don’t think I have ever been more hyped for a DLC than I was for this.

Beyond that though, there has been an incredibly consistent GTA branding that I envy, with unique font and art style that saturate every aspect of the game marketing, regardless of which title is released. Add on top of that, bus billboards, NYC giant posters, and endless campaigns that still last to this day, you will never escape the event that is the release of Grand Theft Auto.

The final aspect I adore about GTA is the decade recap.

At GTA’s heart, beats a sarcastic, satirical and scathing teenager who wants to lash out at society and laugh at its ridiculousness. Even the name Rockstar Games suggest there is an attitude of rebelliousness, of good ol’ rock’n’roll attitude to how they produce games. Yes the product is undeniably genius and well made, but its heart is devil-may-care. Rockstar doesn’t care that the game offends or insults you … the fact that you bought it or are talking about it, is already a win in their eyes and they are laughing all the way to the bank.

But what is astonishing is their skill at satire. The have such a consistent stupid approach to things. Pisswasser is their best beer in the game. Cluckin Bell is their take on fast-food empires and their radio stations have insane advertisement for Ammu-Nation the gun store in-game. Then there is the recent parody of Apple in iFruit with lewd, suggestive advertisements and even Faceook is not safe with their hilarious named LifeInvader social media program that apes the infamous company’s style.

What Rockstar is capable of, is identifying the best elements of a decade and turning it on its head, either in a hilariously over the top way or making it bizarrely sexual. Every decade, has had its best music put into a radio station with ridiculous ads, and the story has had the best of all that decade’s pop culture placed squarely into the narrative. Vice City was a spin on Scarface and Miami Vice. San Andreas was all about 90s gangster culture and there are so many references to popular 90s films, like Con Air, Boyz n the Hood or The Big Lebowski.

Grand Theft Auto IV has an obvious reference to Behind Enemy Lines with Niko’s starting outfit, but more sutble references like Ronin and even Zoolander of all things.

The list goes on and on, but it is that ability to grab all the best of a decade and turn it around that makes GTA so special. The world is real, its grounded but … just heightened ever so slightly just to make immersion a bit funnier to those with keen eyes.

Grand Theft Auto IV … arguably one of the best modern American stories ever crafted with an incredibly charismatic lead in Niko Bellic and an incredible devotion to character drama.

The Culmination.

Grand Theft Auto is landmark piece of entertainment. It is one of the biggest selling franchises of all time and is probably responsible for devouring about an 1/8 of my waking hours. The reason why Grand Theft Auto is such an incredible hit is because it takes the world as it is, tweaks it to make it funnier and stupid and offers you that tempting chance to be an arsehole you have always wanted to be in reality.

That is what, at its core, makes Grand Theft Auto so addicting. You want to own all these things in reality. To do whatever you want in reality. To be a badass drifting around a corner through red lights, to sky-dive and not worry about the plane exploding onto a skyscraper, to pilot your own submarine, to make money easily by killing half a dozen people … to pull of heists and make millions.

Then subsequently spend all of it on a hyper-car and not worry about financial repercussions.

The story is cynical, hilarious and ultimately all about a flawed human being having a heart of gold. Every Rockstar protagonist is an incredibly lovable asshole. They are flawed, do horrible things, and behave like the biggest douche on the planet, but their writing, and ultimately desire to get better makes them relatable. Michael De Santa, Jimmy Hopkins, Max Payne, Niko Bellic, Carl Johnson, Tommy Vercetti, Arthur Morgan … all of these leads are charismatic, psychotic maniacs with thousands of deaths to their names and millions of dollars to their reputation and game but at their heart, despite their despicable actions, they are good men who look after their friends and just want to get ahead in life.

To quote Doctor Strange … Its a simple spell, but quite unbreakable.

The cherry on top of this satirical escapism, is the hyper realistic graphics, the fascinating side characters and the enthralling music. Rockstar takes immersion to the next level, with hilarious AI phone conversations, the ability to give the finger to pedestrians, and truly indulge in being the best Los Santos/Vice City/Bullworth Academy/Sao Paulo domestic terrorist you can be.

Rebellious. Controversial. Aggressive. Fearless. Anti-Authority. These are but some of the characteristics that help define the role of the rock star in modern day society. Rock stars are unafraid to push the limits of an established set of rules. They constantly question authority and live to upend the social structures that help to define it. Their belief’s become their passions and they strive to share these with the surrounding world. Their aura is intoxicating and inspires others to follow their way of life. This is the life of a rock star. This is the unofficial motto of Rockstar Games.

May you rock on forever, Grand Theft Auto.

Rockstar’s scathing wit and satirical commentary on today’s society will never get old, as long as their writing is this good.

Gary Clark Jr. (IMPACT Series)

The epitome of blues, rock and soul.

Welcome to the IMPACT series where I dissect notable and iconic sequences from games and movies, and how they broadened my mind and left a lasting impression on me, years to come. 

Blak and Blu … this is The Story of Sonny Boy Slim.

The Backdrop.

With so much music being made nowadays, it is easy for us to let talented musicians fly under the radar.

I discovered Gary Clark Jr. the same way I discovered most of my musical taste … through Rockstar Games, the record label masquerading as a multi-million dollar game company that has produced masterpiece upon masterpiece.

I found it incredible that for such a short cut-scene in Max Payne 3, they managed to get the license of Bright Lights by Gary Clark Jr. All just to provide incredible atmosphere to the New Jersey bar that Max found himself slumped in.

I grew obsessed with the song and then artist soon after. I devoured his album, Blak and Blu and grew to appreciate his incredible guitar skills. The way how Clark Jr. seamlessly transition between blues and rock still floors me to this day.

So when I heard his next album, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim was coming out, I immediately pre-ordered and got myself a shirt.

There were even plans to see him live in Melbourne. But unfortunately I was strapped for cash so instead I just dedicated a weekend listening to his albums over and over again.

I get a Hendrix vibe from him and while he may not reach the heights of Jimi, he’s damn close and I’ll settle for that any day of the week.

Make no mistake though, this guy from Austin Texas sounds even better live and he is one of the few artists where I actually download the Live albums.

Shredding it like no one else can. Just listen to one of his live renditions. The guitar solos are always worth sticking around for, not to mention the heavy vocal skills on display.

The Impact.

One of my favourite things about Gary Clark Jr. is that the man is raw. Raw talent. Raw emotions. Raw performances. There is a roughness to his playing style that makes it compelling listening. He is insanely talented and skilled at manipulating a guitar, but it is the combination of his vocals and the actual meaning behind his lyrics that make him the real deal.

There is a folklore quality to his songs that inspired me to actually start revisiting other famous guitarists with a message to scream into a microphone.

It also made me realise just how difficult it is to create a niche for yourself in the over-saturated world of blues and rock. Often times you find talent copying other famous musicians, or people who can hold a tune, but can’t string a guitar or vice versa.

Gary Clark Jr’s raw style and folklore style to his lyrics make him a unique voice in American music.

There is a road quality to his soundscapes, where you might be passing by a bar on the street and suddenly you hear this wail of a guitar.

You stop, pay your entrance fee and forget whatever plans you might have had for the night, because talent this good doesn’t come by often.

That’s the effect Gary Clark Jr. has on me. He made me sit up, notice and hum his songs for days after. His voice can soar above his guitar, and somehow go low enough to meld beautifully as well.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it …. he made me want to wear beanies, and hang a guitar over my shoulder. Unfortunately I grew up playing piano and so I’m stuck with only wearing beanies.

The Enrichment.

Gary Clark Jr. opened my eyes to a lot of things beyond his amazing skill and killer album Blak and Blu.

Firstly, I appreciated that he was an early proponent of Indigenous Australian issues, when he toured Australia. The Aborigine flag was highly prominent across his chest as he jammed out his tunes and it seemed the issues they faced, were echoed in his latest album, This Land.

The album was inspired by a encounter he had when buying his ranch in Texas and it prompted one of his best songs yet, with an incredible opening that was as unique as it was impactful.

Warbles, guitar riffs and an angry, indignant voice combined together to create an absolute banger of a song to headline his latest album.

Beyond his obvious championship of Indigenous rights, an issue no doubt brought about his lovely Australian wife, Gary Clark Jr. also tackled social issues in most of his songs.

There is righteous anger in This Land, mythical wistfulness in The Story of Sonny Boy Slim and just pure nostalgia for a rugged Americana in Blak and Blu. His music videos are always well informed and tackling something crucial in society.

Well … perhaps his Justice League MV leaves a lot to be desired but … at least the lyrics are killer.

But the real enrichment Gary Clark Jr. provides for me is an angry atmosphere to wrap myself into. My favourite three songs of his, all make me feel a certain way that just can’t be captured by other artists.

His song, Numb is this hard-edged melody that makes me feel comforted in knowing that I am not the only male out there that loves his woman, but can also be incredibly frustrated by her. The slow, burning energy of the guitar is what sells this song.

Yeah I know … Yeah woman, I can’t feel the same.

Then it is When My Train Pulls In makes me want to run away with her again. The folklore style of the lyrics and wistfulness of his guitar make me romantic. Let’s escape across the road and put our worries behind is the vibe I get from this song. I want to, I want to so badly, but I can’t and that’s why this love is doomed.

I’ll be ready now … I’ll be ready when my train pulls in.

The best song for last is of course Bright Lights where it makes me feel like I am in the same bar as Max Payne, nursing a drink, agonizing over regrets and desperate to chase away the hangover with something even stronger. I’m angry, alone and desperate. I’m willing to do anything to make my pain go away, but nothing is coming, so I’m getting angrier.

Bright lights, big city going to my head

I’ve bought all his albums. That’s a rare statement from a guy like me who is as cheap as it gets when it comes to free methods of downloading on the internet.

The Culmination.

If trouble was money baby …. I swear I’d be a millionaire …

If worries was dollar bills …. I’d buy the whole world and have money to spare.

Gary Clark Jr. remains one of my all time favourite musicians. His guitar skills are unbelievable and there is just a hell of a lot of emotions in his singing.

He’s a born live performer, not a man to be cooped up in a studio.

There is weight to his songs, a real strong sentiment of a man that can’t be tamed and lives on only through his music.

In a lot of ways, Gary Clark Jr. represents to me the ideal musician. A man with raw unmatched talent, the fire within to speak about anything he damn well please and he let his skills do all the talking.

He carry the kindred spirit of guitar legends on his shoulders and it has served him well.

Even now, when I listen to his stuff, I get transported to another space, a place where I am devoured by some strange passions and at the mercy of whims.

And that is a gift that not many musicians can conjure up within me.

Just watch him shred https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYXMDCNjl8M


L.A. Industrial Noise Rock Band

Welcome to the IMPACT series where I dissect notable and iconic sequences from games and movies, and how they broadened my mind and left a lasting impression on me, years to come. 


The Backdrop.

Quite potentially the most left-field band I have ever found and fallen in love with, HEALTH was introduced to me, via one of my favourite games of all time: Max Payne 3.

In fact, the game’s score and style was so influential, I actually discovered 2 artists through the game, HEALTH and Gary Clark Jr. (more on this guy in a follow up post) and subsequently became obsessed with cynical monologues for the rest of my life.

An obsession you can clearly read in my writing.

In fact, I could argue that Rockstar is probably responsible for most of my excellent music taste. Their choice, direction and soundscape in games is essentially impeccable, from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City’s 80s pop on Flash FM to the addicting anger in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’s 90s rap Radio Los Santos and my current interest in electronica heard in Los Santos Underground Radio in Grand Theft Auto V.

HEALTH have been long collaborators with Rockstar and I must say I am grateful, because the score in Max Payne 3 is ridiculously unique and truly evocative. When I first heard it, I was genuinely stunned. The sounds that came from the score were so distinct, unique and impactful. I could hear the pain and anguish in Max’s grief, the sadness of the favelas and the nihilistic overtones of the cutscenes.

There has never been a score since that has simultaneously unsettled me and lifted me to emotional heights like Max Payne 3.

Now upon listening to more of their albums, I am incredibly addicted to their angry, violent sounds and the throbbing undertones of dark energy, that are juxtaposed with soaring lyrics and voices.

It is downright weird.

It is industrial noise rock.

HEALTH’s score in Max Payne 3, especially the Airport sequence left me shaken and stirred. TEARS forever.

The Impact.

Beyond the first initial reaction to the Max Payne 3 score, I knew that I was hungry for more from these guys.


The first real album I found from HEALTH and the subsequent addiction. For me, DEATH MAGIC is still as incredible now as it was to me when I first heard of.

For me, an obvious sign that I am loving the music I am hearing, is when the hairs on my forearm stand up and goosebumps suffuse my skin. That’s when I know my entire being is vibing completely with the music I am listening to.

DEATH MAGIC still invokes that sensation years after I first found it. To listen to DEATH MAGIC is to go on a strange, dark journey that is terrifying and violent, occasionally interrupted by soaring, despairing and sweet songs that tug away at your inner despair and make you long for love.

If you look at the album cover, the names of each song is unapologetically strange and cryptic, to match the chaotic album art. The red and black strange Jackson Pollock’s style of art is in perfect harmony to the diverse soundscapes you will be expericing in the album itself.

If I had to sum up each song, here is what it would look like:

VICTIM: The very first song is all about setting up a precedence. It’s heavy thumping rhythms make you feel like you are descending into a dark place. You are sinking, falling and diving deeper into a strange, chaotic place. Just when you are lost, and about to give up, in comes Jake Duzsik’s strange soaring vocals to guide you further on your dark path. You follow his voice, like a blind man would, bewildered, hopeful and trusting of a strange angel.

STONEFIST: Hits you with all the iconic HEALTH sounds, from Duzsik’s hauntingly sweet vocals, to the dark pulses of the band’s drums, guitar and synthesizers. It legitimately slams you straight after VICTIM, letting you know that Duzsik’s angel is now accelerating your journey through this dark place, and you have to keep up, as his voice is punctuated by hard hitting synth and drums crescendos. As you try to keep pace, all you’ll hear is LOVE’S NOT IN OUR HEARTS.

(Oh and the music video is deceptively normal, until the 1 minute mark, and then it decides to go full Society (1989) on you)

MEN TODAY: Takes a dark turn, with its heavy emphasis on drums and chaotically quick guitar riffs. Slow drums, then punctuated by quick guitar and dark synth, only to mellow out into soft, high vocals. Almost like you are on a roller-coaster of sound, terrifying one minute, then bliss as you hit the apex. It is mercifully short and then you transition into FLESH WORLD.

FLESH WORLD (UK): Rhythmic, then all the sudden interjected by a strange siren, high vocals allow you to take a breather, and settle in. It is a slower tempo than the other songs, but really allows Duzsik’s unique vocals and HEALTH’s strange lyrics to shine.

All the bones grew strong before they broke
All the blood runs hot before it’s cold
All the bones grew strong before they broke

COURTSHIP II: Just as you were getting comfortable, COURTSHIP II comes in with dark terrifying visions of nightmares, with slow, throbbing drums, constantly playing in the background, only to be accelerated by rapid guitar, bass and synth. Just as it ramps up, the song takes a sudden turn and lets the slow vocals kick in, confusing you with its chaotic energy. It slows down and almost soothes you with how gentle the vocals are. It would be relaxing, were it not for the crash of drums and guitars at the end.

DARK ENOUGH: A personal favourite of mine, this song is the relaxing element of the album. Slow, and fully utilising Duzsik’s vocals to the absolute pop limit, it is a dark pop song, with haunting melodies. You feel like you are being nursed to health after the chaos of the earlier songs.

Does it make a difference how I feel
As long as I come back to you?
Does it make a difference if it’s real
As long as I still say I love you

SALVIA: A primer for NEW COKE, SALVIA’s first initial seconds of the song are dark and pounding, but suddenly it relaxes into a mellow melody that is airy, and gentle. Short and sweet, it is meant to be an linking song to NEW COKE.

NEW COKE: Another favourite’s of mine, HEALTH’s dark pop style is on full display here, with a dark theme to the lyrics.

Let the guns go off
Let the bombs explode

Oh just once
We’ll be gone before we know
Question how will we go
Will we see the ones we’ve lost?

It is nihilistic, despairing and tragic and the song peaks in the centre on a wail that threatens to consume you.

L.A. LOOKS: After the nihilistic, almost suicidal tones of NEW COKE, L.A. LOOKS almost seems to mock you with its actual pop style zest and zing. It is quite possibly the only “fun” song, that doesn’t really delve into the darkness to much. With its more fun style, comes this feeling that you are nearing the end of your journey. That you really have gone through the worst of it. The lyrics of course are dark, disguised by the fun slow tempo of the song.

But it’s not love
It’s not love
It’s not love but I still want you
It’s not love, it’s not love
It’s not love but I still want you

HURT YOURSELF: With an odd choir-like opening, HURT YOURSELF is an excellent example of how HEALTH loves mashing genres and styles to create a wholly unique sound to their songs. There is an angelic style to this song, with high pitched peals and tones to accentuate the lyrics. You soar for a while, until HEALTH slams in a beautifully dark undertone to the entire song near the end, to make it seem like you are flying, only it is the sky beneath the ground.

DRUGS EXIST: The final song of the album, and the terminal leg of your journey, is an reflective and gentle song, with high notes and crooning lyrics. It is sad, slow and moody, softly letting you down after the ride through DEATH MAGIC. You finish your journey, empty, and bereft of something, yet … if you leave your music player on repeat, the booming sounds of VICTIM take you right back to the beginning again and your dark journey starts over.

Limp as you’d like
Everybody dies
Pray if you must
Try to love the ones who loved us

There was no blood
We’ve worried all but numb
There lies no ghost
The dead will call us home

Live as you’d like
It’s hard to know what’s right
Pray if you want
But try to love the ones who don’t

It’s magic, that’s what this album is. Sheer, twisted, dark magick.

The Enrichment.

DEATH MAGIC isn’t really just an album with a near perfect replay value, it’s an incredible work of art that is wholly unique and bizarre to the charms of HEALTH.

Of course, I had to go and check out the rest of their discography, from their titular release HEALTH, to the high octane GET COLOR and their latest Vol 4. SLAVES OF FEAR.

What really struck me throughout all their albums, is the consistency of their work. They are always pushing, striving for that unique sound of theirs, and it never ceases to surprise me with how much better they are getting with each album release.

In addition, their music videos are some of the most strange, dark and twisted out there. In particular, WE ARE WATER features highly disturbing and gory results, that I was definitely not expecting from a music video.

But then, I should have known better with how dark and twisted HEALTH is from the beginning. After all, the score during the titular abandoned hotel sequence in Max Payne 3 was some of the most evocative soundscapes I’ve heard in a long time.

Without the discovery of HEALTH I suspect I wouldn’t be able to appreciate new type of music as easily. It took me a while to warm up to them, as I couldn’t work out whether I loved or hated these new sounds.

But repeated playthroughs of Max Payne 3 made me acknowledge the genius behind Rockstar’s choice and appreciate that just because something was unique and utterly strange to me, it wasn’t bad. Not at all.

WE ARE WATER – Texas Chainsaw Massacre edition.

The Culmination.

Chaotic, frenzied, violent and atmospheric, DEATH MAGIC is one of my favourite albums to listen to on repeat because the journey it takes you on, is legitimately like a horror ride.

You’re confused, angry, terrified, and engaged in your primal side. You cling onto the angelic vocals, not realising it is leading you astray and in a strange way, you are having the time of your life, engaging with this strange atmosphere of fear and anger.

To say that HEALTH’s soundscapes are unique is doing it a bit of a disservice in my humble opinion. They are experimenting with all types of things and honestly, they are awesome at slamming it all together in a coherent musical narrative.

I will also like to point out, if you think this is a band trying to “edgy”, I would say that has never been the case with HEALTH. Much like Nine Inch Nails, from the onset HEALTH has been consistently dark in their exploration of music and I don’t see a shred of pretension in their art so far.

To see them live would be a dream come true, and I really hope one day they might tour somewhere Down Under so I can catch them.

A tiny bit of extra trivia that I thought was an insanely incredible act of generosity, was that for their NEW COKE music video, there is a phone number at the end of the short film.

This was actually the phone number for the band and they would legitimately talk to anyone who called the number, about their lives and if they needed any help.

Just amazing. You just have to get past the projectile vomiting to see the end though.

DEATH MAGIC … just go check it out.

I love HEALTH’s work and will doubtless continue to be a fan for a very long time.