Top 10 King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard Songs

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard never fail to surprise.

Even before their almost impossibly productive 2017, they were renowned for their superhuman work ethic, genre-hopping tendencies, and unmissable live shows. Add the 5 albums of last year into the mix and you’re left with 13 full-length records containing everything from jazz to psychedelic rock to prog and back again, a truly unique discography befitting of a truly unique band.

But this year they’re taking a break from recording, so it seems like a good time to take stock. That’s right, today we will be ranking (see: attempt to) the top 10 songs from Melbourne’s finest. This has been a tough task, but please, sit back, relax, and get ready to be slightly irritated that your favourite didn’t make it.

10. The River

With each of its 4 tracks clocking in at exactly 10 minutes and 10 seconds in length, 2015’s Quarters is a bit of a mixed bag. Half of the album feels like padding to reach the necessary track lengths, full of endless jamming around ideas that would have been better served as much shorter songs. The same cannot be said for its opener though, that being the hazy bliss of The River. Gizzard have ventured into jazzy territory a couple of times, but this track is undoubtedly the greatest of those experiments.

The combination of the 5/4 time signature and production that has the band sounding as if they’re playing through thick smoke is a winning one, lending the track a lo-fi ambiance that’s as catchy as it is intoxicating. Spiraling riffs eventually ebb and flow towards a climactic and potent time signature shift, welcoming in slinky reworked versions of the main guitar lines that cement this as a stone cold classic.

9. Crumbling Castle

This one knocked about in various forms before it’s final incarnation appeared on last year’s Polygondwanaland as its opening track. First, there was a short, 3-minute version played live a few times, then a leaked instrumental demo recording, and finally the proggy behemoth that takes the number 9 spot on this list. The whole 11 minutes are essentially just the band flexing every muscle they have, and it works to awe-inspiring effect.

The main vocals and lyrics are fairly standard, but it’s the instrumentation that really lifts this track. The intricacy of the interlocking guitar parts is pretty much unparalleled in their discography, combining with bubbling synths to create an almost overwhelming experience. Add in some chant-like sections and a ferociously heavy epilogue, and you’ve got an album opener for the ages.

8. The Lord of Lightning

Murder of the Universe is a pretty polarising album. Some love the overtly mystical themes and the narration, but many dismiss it as a self-indulgent misfire lacking in any real substance. There is one thing that most agree on though, and that’s the fact that The Lord of Lightning goes hard. The ominous riff that hangs over the entire song combines with the propulsive drums and frequent freakouts to leave the track feeling like it’s going to blow apart at any moment.

And then it does! Towards the end, off the back of a signature Stu Mackenzie yowl, the guitars grind down to a sludgy crawl, transforming the song into something infinitely more intimidating. It’s perhaps the finest individual moment on any Gizzard record, and more than its earns the song its place on this list.

7. Sense

Paper Mache Dream Balloon is a bit of an outlier, with the manic, conceptual ambition of most releases absent in favour of a breezy psychedelic pop approach. This big a change in sound could have been a disaster, but thankfully it resulted in both an album that still stands as a high point of the band’s career, and yet another stellar opening track. Sense is a relatively simple song, with a repetitive acoustic guitar providing the backing for some sumptuous clarinet, but it’s this simplicity that gives it its charm.

Mackenzie drops his usual staccato delivery in favour of a delicate vocal that floats over the song instead of dictating its direction. The result is a short but instantly memorable track that more than matches up to its flashier, louder siblings.

6. The Bitter Boogie

While Sense, and most of the rest of PMDB, sound as if they were written specifically to be sung around a campfire in the middle of a commune, The Bitter Boogie wouldn’t sound out of place on a western soundtrack. The guitars and harmonica lean heavily on blues influences, while the looping bass and repeating vocal of ‘bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter…’ mixes in a more psychedelic edge.

These elements create a swirling, almost hypnotic groove that’s fantastic even by itself, but towards the end of the track, the vocals of Ambrose Kenny-Smith come in and lift things to another level. His abrasive, almost sleazy style dials the blues up to 11 and the whole thing instantly clicks, with his absence from the rest of the song only serving to heighten the satisfaction when he eventually arrives. The result is an often overlooked classic that only misses out on the top 5 by a hair.

5. Sleep Drifter

Top 5 time! That’s right we’ve reached the big time, and what better way to enter the final straight than with the finest cut from the 2017 microtonal masterpiece Flying Microtonal Banana? Seemingly inspired by a piece entitled Kara Toprak by Turkish poet Asik Veysel, Sleep Drifter showcases the band at their most confident and musically accomplished. Fittingly, the track floats along like a lullaby, with simple, childlike lyrics, ‘I can see you next to me / And it is lovely’ acting as the perfect accompaniment to the gentle yet groovy guitar melodies. The microtones keep you from drifting off though, keeping things intriguingly offbeat and adding in a distinctive and unique flavour that pushes this one into the realm of greatness.

4. Am I In Heaven?

Until it was usurped by Nonagon Infinity, I’m In Your Mind Fuzz was the best example of King Gizzard’s signature brand of frantic, tightly wound psychedelia. Despite opening with a deceptively chilled acoustic section, it’s best track, Am I In Heaven, soon descends into beautiful madness. The Aussies have never again sounded this jacked up, with the rhythm section and guitars galloping along at a thousand miles an hour creating a disorientating wall of noise in the process. Mackenzie’s vocals sit distorted in the mix, screaming nonsense and employing his signature ‘WOOOOOOOOOO’ to electrifying effect. By the time the chorus rolls around he sounds 50 ft. tall, as the chords rise with him. This is perhaps the best example of the band just throwing everything they have at a song and just seeing what happens, and it’s fucking glorious.

3. Head On/Pill

Great debate rages over which album of the 13 is the best. There’s no definitive answer of course, but at the same time, it’s definitely Float Along-Fill Your Lungs. The band’s third record is the most psychedelic they have ever produced, featuring sitars, trippy lyrical imagery and some beautiful kaleidoscopic artwork. The recent vinyl reissue of the album called its opener the ‘Gizzhead national anthem’, and a description has never been so apt.

Whenever this song starts appearing on setlists, fans across the world start talking in hushed tones on internet forums about the possibility of the band playing it when they come to their city, and its not hard to see why. From the euphoric twang of the opening riff through the wild, shimmering ride of the next 16 minutes, this is a song good enough to get you hooked on Gizzard forever. For such a long song, its remarkably catchy, and although it can get repetitive, you soon lose count of the endless cries of ‘PILL’ and just get lost in the psychedelic soup.

2. Robot Stop

As the opening/closing/anywhere in between song on the infinitely looping masterpiece Nonagon Infinity, Robot Stop never fails to get the loudest cheer when played live. It packs in enough ideas to fill an entire album, and even features the return of a motif from I’m In Your Mind Fuzz’ Hot Water, a moment that somehow feels like a natural fit instead of a cheap trick.

It’s got a totally unique energy befitting of its punk-style pacing, bursting out of the traps and quite literally never letting up. But for a track of this rapid a pace, it packs one hell of a melodic wallop, and as far as riffs and solos go this song is an absolute embarrassment of riches, with them all piling up on one another before cascading seamlessly into Big Fig Wasp.

It may well be the band’s defining song, but it’s not quite their best…

1. Float Along-Fill Your Lungs

So here we are, at the summit of Mount Gizzard. It’s been tough whittling down 13 albums to just 10 songs, but there was never really too much doubt about what sits at the top of the pile. The title track from Float Along-Fill Your Lungs isn’t just the band’s greatest song, it’s one of the best psychedelic rock tracks of the last 10 years, and yes you can quote us on that.

The central mantra of, ’Just float along, and fill your lungs / Just float along, and breathe a deep breath’, doesn’t just function as an appropriately hippy-sounding refrain, it encapsulates the vibe of this entire genre of music and of the band themselves. Mackenzie repeats it over a soundscape alive with a million colours, with guitars exploding and reversing back again amidst throbbing synth gurgles; it couldn’t fit together any better.

The result is something that’s somehow both relaxing and thrilling at the same time, with multiple listens revealing new melodies hidden under the layers upon layers of shimmer. Who knows if they’ll ever top it, and we suspect we’ll see them try soon enough, but until then, stay safe, and remember: rattlesnake, rattlesnake, rattlesnake… – Rory McArthur (@rorymeep)

Jack White produces a mixed bag with Boarding House Reach

words fae rory mcarthur (@rorymeep)

Jack White has always been one to do things his own way. From the strict dress codes of The White Stripes to his meticulously designed vinyl releases, the man clearly has a way he likes to work, and from that has been born some of the finest rock music of the 21st century. His recent solo work doubled down on his love of old-timey production and influences, but now, on his third such album, the most stubborn man in music seems to have finally let his hair down. Almost entirely eschewing the blues-based sounds of previous albums, Boarding House Reach sees White take more risks than ever before, crafting something far looser, baffling, and altogether fascinating.

The album begins conventionally enough with the satisfyingly simple Connected by Love, but pretty soon we’re plunged headfirst into a whirlwind of experiments and oddities, some of which work and some of which…don’t. A lot of this album sounds like multiple half-formed ideas thrown together in an attempt to form some sort of coherent whole, making for frustrating listening at times. Corporation is guilty of this, stitching together a few great, but incongruent, song ideas into somewhat of a messy collage. The same goes for Respect Commander, a strange mash of a fantastically unhinged rock song and a meandering instrumental of skittering drums and digital effects. All this becomes almost respectable after a few listens, owing to the sheer madness of it all, but as far as making for something you actually want to revisit, there is certainly something lacking. At times, the experimentation definitely comes at the detriment to the overall quality of the music. This feeling is only made stronger by the multiple spoken word tracks littered throughout the runtime. Although perhaps intriguing on a first listen, they just come across as superfluous after a while, and eventually induce eye-rolls whenever they chime in to break up the momentum.

Thankfully, it’s hard for an artist as good as White to go a whole album without producing at least a few slices of gold. Get in the Mind Shaft is perhaps the biggest departure from his established norm on the whole album, and this time the risk pays off. A funky squelch full of filtered vocals and shiny effects, you’d never in a million years think that it was written by the same guy who penned Seven Nation Army, but it somehow remains a frighteningly catchy track that stands out as a diamond in the rough. Further satisfying moments are provided by the stripped down closing one-two of What’s Done Is Done and Humoresque, but the true highlight of the album comes at it’s centre, with the straight up White Stripes rock of Over and Over and Over. Apparently written years ago during his time with his old band, the song is propelled forward by one of the best riffs White has released in years, and epitomises everything we love about this artist. The energy, the intensity, it’s all there, but alas, it is a bit of a flash in the pan; no other track on the record even gets close to matching it’s quality.

Ultimately then, this one is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s got to be admired just how far White has gone to shake up his style, but as with any grand transitional period there are more than a few slip-ups. In fact, it seems likely that more than a few people will dismiss this totally as self-indulgent nonsense and that he’s ‘lost his edge’ or something similar. This would be an exaggeration, the White Stripe we all know remains at the core of these tracks, but there is a certain degree of alienation that will be felt by long time fans. However, to make an album with this clear a disregard for it’s commercial success remains a ballsy move despite the stature of the musician, and for that reason it’s difficult to feel too aggrieved at the lack of too many ‘proper’ Jack White moments. Perhaps this is the record he needed to make to usher in a new era of creative genius, or perhaps he really is disappearing up his own arse; time will tell, but people will always be curious to hear what one of the most unique voices in music has to say next.

The rapping on Ice Station Zebra does suck though.

rating 6

Album Review: Freedom’s Goblin by Ty Segall

by rory mcarthur (@rorymeep)rating 9

Last January, Ty Segall quietly delivered one of the finest records of 2017. That is, of course, quiet as in it was met with little fanfare. The music, on the other hand, was a short, sharp shot of frenetic energy that blew the new year’s blues away with consummate ease. And now, almost a year to the day, a new project, entitled Freedom’s Goblin, has been unleashed upon the world to do the same. A double album of 19 tracks, the record sees Segall at his most dynamic, hopping nimbly from futuristic disco to some of the fuzziest rock seen since Dwayne Johnson grew out his beard last year. In lesser hands, this sort of smashing together of styles could have resulted in a disjointed mess of a record, but instead, the constant variation creates an exhilaratingly sprawling joyride of ups and downs that at the very least, will leave you with a gigantic ear-to-ear smile.

Straight from the Conan road-tested opener Fanny Dog, Segall manages to whip up a palpable sense of almost giddy excitement. Riding a cacophonous wave of uplifting horns, rock ’n’ roll piano lines, and of course a few hard-hitting guitar riffs, you can almost visualise the cheeky grins of those involved as they pound out the track dedicated to the Californian’s pet pooch. It’s amongst the catchiest and most infectious rock songs you’re likely to hear all year and lingers in the memory long after the album’s one-hour 14-minute runtime is up.

After a brief flirtation with piano-driven balladry on Rain, the energy picks right back up again with an all expenses paid trip to disco-land. A fuzzed-up cover of Hot Chocolate’s Every 1’s a Winner followed by an original composition of the funky disposition, Despoiler of Cadaver, provide a welcome deviation from the usual garage rock formula, providing some genuinely unexpected high points from the whole album. This trip into unfamiliar genres continues later on with the Black Sabbath influenced crunch of She. Previous records have often sounded heavy of course, but never quite with this much force behind them. The track crackles with metallic sludge, shot through with some Ozzy-esque yowling to complete the picture. It’s one of the longer tracks on the album, and it’s all the better for it, providing a centrepiece that’s sure to go down as a live favourite, in addition, to probably the highlight of the album itself.

With all this in mind then, it’s perhaps not surprising that the album ends on a rather ambitious note. The 12-minute And, Goodnight begins as a pleasant sounding jam but soon reveals itself as an electric reworking of the title track from the 2013 acoustic project Sleeper. For long-time fans of the artist, this is a real treat, to hear such a fantastic song reimagined so well serves as a reminder of why they fell in love with this artist in the first place, while simultaneously feeling right at home capping off a new set of songs.


Aside from this, there are of course some other classic Segall hallmarks to be found lurking throughout the tracklist. The artist’s tendency to shove instruments through waste disposal units, or at least that’s what it sounds like, crops up a few times, and it sounds just as good as it did on 2016’s wonderfully distorted Emotional Mugger. The horns that lift so many of these tracks to greatness get the full treatment on The Main Pretender, sounding about as sleazy as is allowed by law. And even before that, When Mommy Kills You showcases some terrifically disgusting guitar tones that somehow manage to fit perfectly alongside some of the more subdued material. But that’s just the beauty of this album. It’s the sound of an artist not afraid to experiment, but equally not afraid to revisit some old sounds and give them another spin.

According to the man himself, the concept of the album was to effectively eschew one altogether, and it undoubtedly has been a resounding success. Not all of the tracks work, Shoot You Up, for example, sounds a little too similar to last years Break a Guitar to really satisfy, but the general level of consistency across such a mammoth and diverse tracklist is nothing short of astounding. Segall tips his toes into disco, metal, and a whole host of other styles and comes out of the other side a bona-fide genre-hopping hero.

This may well be the musician’s finest release yet, at the very least standing toe to toe with some of his previous classics. It’s a treasure trove that demands multiple listens to uncover its hidden gems, of which there are a great many, but it’s difficult to imagine anyone begrudging a few extra listens to really get to grips with it when the music is this good.

At the end of it all, it seems that Segall’s Freedom Band chose their name wisely.



Album Review: Together Pangea – Bulls and Roosters

By Rory McArthur (@RoryMeep)

Together Pangea have never quite received as much appreciation as they deserve. Despite touring alongside the likes of FIDLAR and Ty Segall over the years, the Californians haven’t quite reached the levels of success enjoyed by their better known contemporaries, flying relatively under the radar for the majority of audiences. Whatever the reason for this though, it certainly doesn’t concern the quality of their output. From the screeching punk of 2011’s Living Dummy to the frenetic, shout-a-long anthems of 2014’s Badillac, the band are responsible for some of the most underrated garage rock music of the last few years. Specialising in tracks seemingly tailor-made for teenagers to crowdsurf at house shows to, there’s always been a certain charm to their refreshingly simple approach to songwriting.

So the question is, does their latest offering, Bulls and Roosters, hold up to what’s come before? The answer, unfortunately, is not the resounding yes we were hoping for. Rather a lukewarm, ‘kind of’.

Right off the bat, it’s clear that this album is not a continuation of the sound TP have previously dealt in. Gone are the big, deafening guitar squalls and the vocal cord shredding shrieks; in their place is a much sunnier, more restrained style. And for the first half of the album at least, it’s a stylistic shift that works wonders. With a newfound focus on melody, about 6 or so of these tracks are gems. On the joyous opener, Sippy Cup, the foursome show that they’re fully capable of retaining the endearing energy that made their previous releases so enjoyable, while also moving in a new direction. The track revels in a refusal to grow up, with vocalist William Keegan gleefully crying, “I got my sippy cup, you got your wedding gown” without any degree of cynicism. While keeping up a brisk pace, the song trades distortion and frenetic guitars for something palpably less abrasive, with the pogoing lead line sure to get crowds jumping along in unison. It’s a truly great track, and one that sets hopes high from the second you hit play.

And for a while such hopes come to fruition. The album subsequently keeps up a steady run of similarly feeling tracks, running through a whistling solo on The Cold, some shaky lead guitar on Kenmore Ave and some delightfully sun-kissed solos on Money on It. But it’s the slick, almost classic rock-esque vibe of Gold Moon that serves as the centrepiece and highlight of the record. Easily the most immediately satisfying of these 13 songs, the track breaks the established tone with a 2-minute shot of bubbling intensity that easily holds up to the best of the bands discography. It’s new territory for the band but it’s handled deftly, and it caps off a genuine belter of a first half.

Unfortunately, the album loses its way on the second half and it loses it badly. In fact, it’s actually quite difficult to describe why the latter tracks don’t work as the majority are so nondescript they don’t stick in the brain enough to produce a reaction. Only a few have the distinction of being notably bad, but the rest just go in one ear and right out the other. The twangy guitar line from Blue Mirror (a highlight of 2015 EP, The Phage) is recycled on the, presumably, sequel song Peach Mirror. And to be frank, it falls totally flat. A great riff is consigned to the background for most of the song and just makes you pine for the original, rather than providing a fresh spin. The whiny chorus refrain of, “lost, lonely and high / lost, lonely and high” is equally irritating, succeeding only in being cringe inducing rather than melancholic.

Stare at the Sun similarly fails to impress, with its bouncing riffs coming off as a cheap knock of The Cure, ultimately just feeling uninspired. Thankfully the buzzing blues of Alison end the album on a high note, but sadly that one final spark of quality isn’t quite enough to make up for half a record’s worth of forgettable tunes.

And that’s just the way to describe Bulls and Roosters: a true album of two halves. While the first half succeeds as a fun, summery, slight shake up of the band’s sound, the other just fades into the background. It’s an incredibly frustrating verdict to have to give, but sadly it’s an unavoidable one as well. Certain tracks show glimpses of the band who wrote such fantastic songs like Snakedog and Offer, but they’re all too rare for this album to be considered a real success. It’s with sadness, then, that it must be said this album is a disappointment. There’s plenty to enjoy here, and a fair few tracks deserve generous praise, but the sheer amount of filler makes it likely they’ll be lost in the murk as soon as the curtain falls. So not quite the super-continent sized success we’d hoped for, not by a long shot.








Album Review: King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard w/ Mild High Club – Sketches of Brunswick East

By Rory McArthur (@RoryMeep)

What can really be said about King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard at this point? After 11 (eleven) albums in 5 years, many will already be aware of their ridiculous work rate, their genre hopping tendencies, and their all round bat-shit craziness. It should come as no shock then, that the surprise released, jazz flavoured Sketches of Brunswick East adds even more variety to their bursting discography. A collaboration with Californian outfit Mild High Club, this latest work really is like nothing the band have recorded before, returning to the chilled out vibe of some previous releases, but putting a new, fresh spin on it.

Edgar Wright may have recently declared the septet a new favourite of his, but these 13 tracks would seem as out-of-place on the Baby Driver soundtrack as Jeremy Corbyn would at a fox hunt. Whereas the hectic energy of Nonagon Infinity would probably seem right at home blasting out of Ansel Elgort’s headphones during a car chase, SOBE feels more like the stoners sitting on the corner of the street, dismissing the action with a disinterested shrug.


The main inspiration for the album seems to have sprung from the everyday goings on in the titular Melbourne suburb – “our attempt to find beauty within a place that we spend so much time”, as main songwriter Stu Mackenzie puts it. These themes are pretty buried in the album though, with the personal touch of emotion you might expect from an album dedicated to your hometown pretty much absent. In classic King Gizzard style, the album is quite vague as far as lyrics go, with only a few mentions of decaying buildings and street names to remind us of the concept. Dogs bark and cicadas chirp in the background, but this music ultimately sounds more like it came from space than from Australia. Thankfully, this isn’t too much of an issue, as the album’s sunny disposition means it would still easily soundtrack a leisurely stroll down the street on a hot Melbourne afternoon, but some more straightforward storytelling may not have gone amiss, to really ground the tracks in Brunswick East.

As far as the instrumentation goes, there’s much more of an improvisational and experimental vibe than was maybe expected, with a surprising touch of darkness underpinning it all. To put it simply, it’s elevator music for weirdos. But what damn fine elevator music it is. From the blissful Countdown, to the sunny sway of The Spider and Me, all the way through to the demented, hypnotic groove of The Book, the record really is quite the achievement. Never before has a King Gizzard album felt quite so immersive, with each track digging you deeper into the hole until you’re surrounded on all sides by this odd, quirky jumble of sounds. Breaking this album into individual songs is almost pointless, with the real joy being found in listening to the whole thing, front to back, and just getting lost in it.

The expansive synth stylings of MHC’s Alex Brettin play a subtle role, providing a warm, lush basis for many tracks, from which the weird and wacky arise. In case you were worrying at all though, this is most definitely still a King Gizzard album. While Brettin’s influence is felt, and is for the most part extremely welcome, sonically, this remains grounded in the strange world of everyone’s favourite universe murderers. Han-Tyumi from the last record makes a cameo on Tezeta, Mackenzie is still popping up with the demonic vocals every now and again, and they’ve even dusted off the old flute for our listening pleasure! All the classic sounds are there, but the album also sees the emergence of a rather unexpected star. Lucas Skinner – the bassist who has never really taken centre stage before, bursts into the limelight, and stakes his claim for MVP. His recurring motif from the title tracks is nothing short of sublime, and his walking, popping work in Dawn to Dusk on Lygon Street isn’t far behind. In fact, his grooves are what allow the whole jazz experiment to really click into place. A lot of the instrumentation has a laid back, jammy quality, but Skinner’s swaggering style provides a much-needed anchor point to prevent it from ever getting too self-indulgent or aimless.

So there we have it, indisputable proof that King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are not of this earth. When they first announced their audacious five albums in a year plan, it seemed impossible that they’d achieve that goal, let alone keep up a level of quality that would make the whole thing worthwhile. Yet here we are, three albums in, and not only has each record seen a deft leap into a new musical style, each one has been bloody good. SOBE doesn’t quite reach the heights of Flying Microtonal Banana to snatch the title of the bands best 2017 release so far, but it does give Murder of the Universe a damn good run for second place, and who knows, once the dust has settled, the rating at the end of this review may well be in need of some upwards adjustment.

What next then? Hip Hop? Country? Doom Metal? EDM? Fuck knows, it’s genuinely pointless to even speculate anymore, but the ride promises to be a wild one. Next album is due out in 30 seconds, probably; hold onto your minds.






Film Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

By Rory McArthur (@RoryMeep)

The rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise has always been an outlier in terms of modern blockbusters. Ghostbusters, Power Rangers, Ghost in the Shell; all recent attempts to revive classic properties, and all, for better or for worse, critical and commercial failures. By all rights, POTA should have followed the same path, but instead it forged its own. Revelling in a slightly less bombastic approach to the summer blockbuster, each movie has genuine heart and soul in abundance, and the concluding chapter of the trilogy is no different. Set around 2 years after the events of Dawn, War sees Caesar and his apes locked in a battle for survival against a rogue band of soldiers, led by Woody Harrelson’s unhinged Colonel. Part revenge tale, part dystopian sci-fi, part biblical epic, War truly is a marvel.

Right from the opening battle scene, you know you’re in for a different sort of ride than before. Set deep inside a forest, the tension is palpable as a group of human soldiers branded ‘monkey killer’ and ‘endangered species’ stalk an ape stronghold. Vietnam comparisons are unavoidable as characters desperately drag themselves through the mud and dirt, making for a visceral and immediately enthralling introduction to this final chapter.

But the battles are not the focus of the film, not by any stretch. Soon enough, Caesar and his closest companions break off from the larger group of apes and set off themselves, trading the wild forests of the film’s opening for a cold, isolated environment up in the mountains. It is here they encounter the mute child, Nova, played wonderfully by Amiah Miller, and Steve Zahn’s Bad-Ape. Both are welcome additions to the cast, but it is Nova in particular who shines. She shares more than a few hard-hitting moments with our ape protagonists, reminding us that this war is a complex beast, where both sides are painted in various shades of grey. Such moments are where the film truly shines, overshadowing the later action scenes with ease.

A much bleaker movie than its predecessors, we see darker shades of our characters than ever before. Caesar, by his own admission, is becoming more and more like Koba, the hate filled ape who began the conflict with humans in earnest in Dawn. As his own hate begins to take hold, he is forced to grapple with not only the threat the humans pose, but with how his actions have brought those he loves into danger. And it makes for incredibly compelling viewing. This is, in no small part, due to another stellar performance from Andy Serkis. His motion capture imbues his characters struggle with so much emotional nuance, that the image of a CG chimpanzee totally melts away, and we’re simply left with an incredible actor, giving an incredible performance, inhabiting an incredible character.

As such, the humans are also forced to take on a new level of darkness. Harrelson’s Colonel represents the first time the human lead in the series has been the out-and-out antagonist, but his character is much more complex than that of a ‘villain’. In the mould of Koba before him, you understand the Colonel’s motivations. Like Caesar, he is simply fighting to survive, and in his own head, his crueller actions are totally justified in the name of saving his species. By the time his arc draws to a close, you can’t help but feel some sympathy for the guy, and at the start of the film, that’s the last thing you would have expected.

Unfortunately, where the film falls down slightly is with its climax. The trailers and marketing teased a big, final confrontation between the apes and the humans, and this just doesn’t materialise. It didn’t necessarily have to, but the third act action scenes we get in its place do seem, at times, a little anti-climactic and overly reliant on coincidence. Without spoiling anything, the apes are, in a way, reduced to secondary players in their own struggle, and although the thematic resonance is there, and its makes for some potential social commentary, many will undoubtedly feel like another route could have been taken plot wise.

Flawed but ultimately satisfying, this finale is as emotionally resonant and satisfying as we all hoped it would be. While not quite reaching the heights of Dawn, War still stands on its own as a fantastically brutal epic of biblical proportions. The titular war has become more complex than ever, and while we stay rooting for the apes, the overall horrors of conflict remain the main takeaway from the action. And it is this level of complexity that makes these films great. Sure they have CGI apes punching each other, and large-scale action set pieces and all that jazz, but ultimately they’re films about what it means to be human, and the way Matt Reeves has chosen to explore that theme is a true wonder to behold.