Sunday, 30 August 2015

Dark Game Review - Death Skidmarks

If you like retro-styled racing games with a hint of Mad Max about them, take a look at my review of PC game Death Skidmarks over on Amongst Geeks, an adult game with plenty of rude jokes and gore. Click here to read my full review.

Image © Copyright Studio Whisky Tango Inc.

Dark Book Review – Revolution

Dark Book Review – Revolution

By Russell Brand

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Image © Copyright Century

I can remember when Revolution was released. It seemed to split opinion quite nicely, some people really liking the book, others poo-pooing it. I had a hunch at the time that I might quite like it, long having had feelings that our capitalistic “democracy” wasn't worth voting in. Like all good little capitalists though, I waited for Revolution to drop in price and come out in paperback before I gave it a go. I'm glad I did.

Revolution puts into wordy-words (sorry, couldn't resist) Russell's outlook on what our world is coming to. I didn't fully get behind everything he said, particularly the God and interconnectedness stuff but that is partly due to my own lack of certainty when it comes to more intangible matters. The stuff about corporations, capitalism and “democracy” (you might be wondering why I keep doing bunny-ears around “democracy”. You see! I did it again!) rang very true to me and helped me shuffle around some of the old brain apparatus inside me noggin to better order my thoughts on the matter. I also worryingly seemed to have caught a bit of Old Russ' parlance too.

Early on in the book, Russell explains why he chooses not to vote and details the abuse he came in for when he said as much. I do vote but I am totally aware that it isn't worth a jot. As Russell says, due to various influences, our democracy seems to be anything but, the ruling party seemingly not there to serve the people any more but to protect the economy and serve big business which is the main reason we have an economy. He gives plenty of examples of how the current landscape favours the mega corporations that seem to own pretty much everything, and how some of the trade agreements we have are stupendously wasteful when it comes to the environment and local labour (workforce, not the political party).

He also takes time to point out the ludicrous nature of the monarchy and I certainly agree with him there. As long as England has a monarchy and an unelected House of Lords, we will be stuck in the dark ages and roundly mocked by all except the U.S, who we could probably sell our Royals to for a tasty profit seeing as they buy all of that prince and princess crap.

It isn't all bitching about class though, Russ goes on to describe what he thinks the much needed revolution should be like, I.e. non-violent etc. and the system that will replace what we have now, I.e. local power in local hands, with government only there to do the admin and put the wishes of the people into action. He also laces a string of comedy through his writing that makes it all a bit less serious and more palatable, openly nodding and winking at his own inability to sometimes put the things he preaches into action.

Going back to when the book was released, I remember some reviewers snooting that it was badly written waffle. I disagree. Whether they objected to his views and more esoteric ponderings and just found his writing style the means to slam the book I have no idea. The most I can say against the book is Russell does have a habit of starting a paragraph about something and getting sidetracked for a little while before coming back to the point he was making. I personally didn't mind this and if anything, it could be argued that it helped keep me focused, I couldn't just switch off or I'd find myself in some gag about him wanking and have no context for it! Noooo!!!

If you have an interest in how the wealth of the world ended up in the hands of a tiny fraction of the population while the rest of us struggle, and why the status quo is the status quo, pick up Revolution now and have a read. It's not po-faced like some of the deadly serious books on the matter and I think it will make you chuckle. Do I like it because it polished my own reflections about the state of the world? Possibly. Do I think even Russell's Revolution will change anything? No. I am too cynical about the ability of people to not screw each other over. Will I stop asking myself questions and just end the review? Yes.

I give Revolution 4/5.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Dark Book Review – Damnation Alley

Dark Book Review – Damnation Alley By Roger Zelazny

Review By Casey Douglass

Image © Copyright iBooks

First published in the late 1960s, Roger Zelazny's Damnation Alley is a turbo-charged jaunt across the post-apocalyptic wasteland of America on a mission to deliver plague antiserum to Boston via the catchily titled Damnation Alley, a route deemed as impassable to all but the best or most foolhardy drivers. Hell Tanner (yes, his first name is Hell) is pushed into the role of reluctant hero as he is forced to take the wheel of the heavily armoured “car” that will make the journey. He's been a naughty boy and it's either this or prison you see. He just happens to be the best driver around and so is given the “choice” of whether to go or not. He goes for it reluctantly and soon finds himself contending with the pleasures of life on the open, mega-storm blasted roads.

I like Hell Tanner. He's a bit of an arse-hole but as is later alluded to by a conversation between him and a person he meets on the road, he is what he is and has never tried to lie and blend into the masses. He loves his Harley, the open road and tinkering with engines. He is also tough, grizzled and content to be breathing a lot of the time. His companions fall by the wayside throughout his journey, each succumbing to the mischief of Damnation Alley, but this doesn't stop him feeling some emotion when it happens, particularly to the ones he comes to like.

The route itself is pretty spectacular, massive storms pelting the car, strange mutated creatures roaming the land and of course, the biggest danger of all: other people. Thankfully, he is driving a special car, one with armour, radiation shielding, flame throwers, missiles and machine guns. He also has a small arsenal inside the cabin around him, next to the fridge and the coffee maker. A real home from home. That doesn't mean he can plough through just anything though. He's an intelligent guy, even if he comes across as a savage. He never bothers the massive snakes that slither across the road, the ones as thick as a trash-can and that take minutes to pass. He also doesn't brave the storms longer than necessary, finding some place to shelter the vehicle until the worst is over.

The book is set out in an interesting way, mostly following Tanner's progress but odd sections detail the plight of the various people in Boston waiting for the cure he is carrying. These vary in their level of interest, a love-lost young couple realising they have the plague is one good scene, a more boring one is a religious nut shouting out his gospel which was particularly boring and dull. Speaking of dull, Robert Zelazny occasionally uses the literary device of having massive unending paragraphs that flow on and on, much like Cormac McCarthy in The Road. I can't remember the name for this style of writing but I find it really annoying, like the efforts of an 8 year old to write something and not knowing what a full stop is for (albeit they get other punctuation spot on). I never like it in any book I encounter that uses it and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Damnation Alley is a good read, interesting and visceral in the Mad Max feelings it produces, where the revving of the armoured car is implied with every manoeuvre, and the crushing atmosphere of the always oncoming storms fraught with pent up tension. Besides the slight issues I've mentioned above, there wasn't much I didn't like about it. With this in mind, I give it 4/5.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Dark Book Review – The Death of Bunny Monroe

Dark Book Review – The Death of Bunny Monroe By Nick Cave

Review Written by Casey Douglass

I picked up The Death of Bunny Monroe when it came up on offer as an Amazon Kindle deal of the day. For around a quid, the synopsis made the book sound well worth a punt:

Bunny Munro sells beauty products and the dream of hope to the lonely housewives of the south coast. Set adrift by his wife's sudden death and struggling to keep a grip on reality, he does the only thing he can think of: with his young son in tow, he hits the road. While Bunny plies his trade and his sexual charisma door-to-door, nine-year-old Bunny Junior sits patiently in the car exploring the world through the pages of his encyclopedia. As their bizarre and increasingly frenzied road trip shears into a final reckoning, Bunny finds that the revenants of his world - decrepit fathers, vengeful ghosts, jealous husbands and horned psycho-killers - have emerged from the shadows and are seeking to exact their toll. A tender portrait of the relationship between a father and a son, The Death of Bunny Munro is a stylish, furious and hugely enjoyable read, bursting with the wit and mystery that fans will recognise as hallmarks of Cave's singular vision.

The first thing to get out in the open is that this book is certainly not one for the prudes out there. If various names and labels for sexual organs and parts of the human body offend you, you'd be best looking at a different book altogether. As the synopsis above says, Bunny Munro is a real hound, barely a page going by without him imagining getting into the panties of whichever women may be at hand. If none are, he invariably ends up slipping into fantasy about Kylie Minogue or Avril Lavigne, usually ending up spending an extended time in the nearest toilets as a consequence. He also suffers from an amazing lack of self-awareness, barely able to comprehend his own actions as part of the chain of consequence that leads to various aspects of his life falling apart, wondering why it all happens to him.

Despite these personality traits however, Bunny manages to come across as a likeable person, even with all the baggage and ignorance along for the ride. This is in no small part to the point of view changing at times to that of his young son Bunny Junior, who is in awe of his father and sees him as the coolest guy around, even when at his most neglectful. It is a credit to Nick Cave that such ugly characteristics in someone can be smoothed a little by viewing them through the eyes of someone who looks past all of that, or is simply just ignorant of the full extent of the depravity.

This feeling of decrepitude runs through the locations of the book also, the flats, hotels and fast food places all seemingly painted in the same dour grime that almost makes a tangible feeling of dirt appear under the fingernails of the person reading. I quite enjoyed this and must admit that it's the same feeling I get reading stuff by Charles Bukowski. Besides this feeling of filth, there are moments of humour, surrealness and emotion that all interplay really well in pushing the reader on to find out what befalls Bunny Senior and Junior by the end of the book. They encounter plenty of colourful characters along the way, some hinted at and never seen again, others almost comical in the portrayal of their nature, even tragically so. Underneath everything flows a river of sleaze and the urge to escape life's problems via addiction and ignorance though, and this persists throughout the book.

I read The Death of Bunny Monroe over the space of a couple of days and felt a little sad that it had ended. I enjoyed spending time with a character that you weren't sure whether you felt sorry for or despised, and his poor son who got dragged along for the ride. If you like grimy books with a touch of heart, I think you will enjoy The Death of Bunny Monroe. I give it 4.5/5.

Visit Canongate Books here for more information.

Bookcover Image © Copyright Canongate Books

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Dark Book Review - Expedition To The Mountains of the Moon

I review book 3 in Mark Hodder's Burton and Swinburne steampunk series: Expedition To The Mountains of the Moon. You can read my full review on Amongst Geeks at this link.

Image © Copyright Snowbooks

Monday, 24 August 2015

Dark Review - ReTrak Retractable 1080p HDMI Cable Multi Pack

I take a look at the ReTrak Retractable 1080p HDMI Cable Multi Pack over on Amongst Geeks, a great connection solution for displaying the media from small HDMI enabled gadgets on a bigger screen. You can read my full review here.

Image © Copyright ReTrak

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Dark Music Review – Between The Horizon And The Abyss

Dark Music Review – Between The Horizon And The Abyss

Written By Casey Douglass 

Between The Horizon and The Abyss Cover art

Between the Horizon and the Abyss is remarkably polished and fluid. Within its realm, no seconds feel wasted, and every sound feels purposefully placed, even as it moves and flows in perpetual motion; strains of a distant angelic choirs fall beneath a complex array of arcing tones, liquidous, molten textures, & harrowing orchestral shimmer, with fervent masses of malevolent atmospherics billowing forth in glorious detail. While this technically falls under the banner of dark ambient, what Yen Pox has managed to create goes far beyond genre specifications and boundaries, crafting a new benchmark and adding a high water mark to an already stellar discography.

The part of the above album blurb that describes the perpetual motion and liquidous molten textures contained within Between The Horizon And The Abyss is a great description of the sound the listener can expect from Yen Pox' album. Most of the tracks feature this wall of sound that seems to at once hit the listener and at times wrap around them, giving an almost visceral heat-like feeling to the soundscapes contained within. This makes the yellowy steam of the album art a great fit too. If ever there was a soundtrack for the fiery orb of the sun rising over a black horizon, this album is it, in my humble opinion.

The Tracks:

The Awakening
A full drone with looming highlights of a higher sound that sounds a little like a flock of strange birds calling and whistling as they come nearer and circle overhead. A more mechanical expulsion joins, hinting at forces being brought to bear. Somewhere around the midpoint, the sound shifts a little, things falling a little quieter with a bassiness and deepening thrum that gives the listener the sensation of things lowering, or growing deeper. Other sounds undulate from left to right in the ear, pulsing and vibrating with an energy and rhythm that sees the track out.

White Of The Eye
What sounds like an expansive guitar-based drone begins this track, a lovely wall of noise that fills the ear. It grows and fades and grows and fades after awhile, distorting and tailing off as it swoops around the soundscape with other peripheral electronic sounds dancing around it. These sounds take on a choral aspect at times, more scream-like shrills at others. At around the half way point, string-based notes carry over the soundscape, their tone rich and strong like the rising sun over a desert plane. Towards the end, a lighter note plays around on top of the now more settled drone, the contrast between the two enjoyed before it fades into the noise once more.

Cold Summer Sun
A quiet start with a vibrating metallic sound against a drone that steadily grows in volume. A deeper bassy sound looms underneath adding a feeling of stark beauty to proceedings. Sounds that put me in mind of chittering insects and fluttering wings emerge, that along with the title, created the mental image for me of cold sunlight piercing the depths of a dark cave and disturbing the inhabitants. Maybe some rock slide opened a fresh shaft into the cave that the sun can now shine down through. Some of the later sounds and rumblings of this track hint at a larger and darker creature being disturbed too, something that might have been best left slumbering. Like the previous tracks, things change as the track progresses, things becoming a little quieter and a little more high pitched.

In Silent Fields
A vocal-type sound rises and falls against the backdrop of a digeridoo-like bass noise, other sounds joining that make it seem like a sun kissed landscape being roamed by strange creatures, their calls and shrieks represented by the different sounds that enter the ear. Harsher “crashes” sound at intervals adding an extra texture to the soundscape.

Grief Ritual
An almost alarm-like sound begins this track, deeper sounds and high screeches interspersed around it. The title and the sounds contained in the track put me in mind of someone alone in a foggy graveyard, spectral figures forming and dispersing around them, shouting and screaming before they become intangible once more. Things go quieter at the mid-point, like a breath held. A swarming maelstrom of whispers and tones swells. Whether this is the intervention of a more powerful being or not, who can tell, but it sounds nice.

Ashen Shroud
Vibrating metal and vocals alternate in a dance of sandpaper and falling dust. Things settle to an almost dripping atmosphere of ticks and abrasion, the voice rising and falling as the echoes recede into the distance.

Tomorrow In Ruins
A light drone that almost sounds wind-like is soon joined by other sounds, one that might actually be the wind. Sounds of strings and a deeper roaming drone expand the soundscape into something melancholy and grainy, a windswept post-apocalyptic city or landscape perhaps.

The Procession
A buzzing bee-like drone, or maybe like a car at a steady speed, starts this track. Distorted words insinuate themselves over the sharper sounds that knife their way through the drone, a conversation the listener is not meant to hear. Near the midpoint a very deep bass rhythm pulses and the other sounds take on more of a laboured exhalation, like a big pair of lungs shuddering and squeezing out a quantity of insects with each breath.


I found Between The Horizon And The Abyss quite difficult to analyse. Whether this is due to fatigue or just the way the sounds mingle I am not sure but I did enjoy listening to it. Each track has a good texture to it, layers of sound giving the mind of the listener plenty to focus on and use as it possibly daydreams or roams free. As I said in the introduction, I felt like every track seemed sun-kissed, even though some of the sounds sounded more of the abyss than the firmament. That being said, mentally looking back over the album, which I listened to a number of times, I find it hard to pick a track that stood out from the others for any particular praise or criticism.

I give Between The Horizon And The Abyss 3.5/5. It achieves a lot with the textures it works with but I think I need more in the way of focal point sounds in my dark ambient music rather than walls of sound. Of course, this means it is more my own personal taste rather than any real issues with the music. Someone else will more than likely rate it higher because it ticks the right boxes for them. I still recommend any dark ambient fan checks out Between The Horizon And The Abyss though, it just didn't resonate with me as much as it might have.

Visit the Bandcamp page for Between The Horizon and The Abyss here for more information and the ability to have a listen.

I was given a free copy of the album to review.

Album Title: Between The Horizon And The Abyss
Album Artist: Yen Pox
Label: Malignant Records
Release Date: 05 May 2015 

Friday, 21 August 2015

Dark Film Review – The Sky Has Fallen

Dark Film Review – The Sky Has Fallen

Written By Casey Douglass

The Sky Has Fallen

Many many films have certainly done the old “the human race is infected and dying, run for the hills!” type plot line, but I'm glad to say that The Sky Has Fallen has a bit more to it than that. Yes, a new disease pretty much axes most of mankind in a few short hours, but there is something even more sinister going on than that. Mysterious black figures are seen by the surviving humans, dragging away the dead or almost dead, and experimenting on them, their screams cutting the night just as knives cut their flesh. See, I said it was more sinister, it doesn't pay to doubt me does it!

The Sky Has Fallen follows the story of Lance (Carey MacLaren) and Rachel (Laurel Kemper), two survivors who cross paths when Lance saves Rachel from an unseen threat one day. Lance is a guy on a mission: to get revenge on the black figures for what they have done and to kill their leader in the hope that it will make all the suffering go away. He does this by the liberal use of a samurai sword and a couple of handguns, and good use he puts them to! Rachel is no damsel in distress herself, the events that have led her to being with Lance no meadow of roses and honeybees. For this is what The Sky Has Fallen seems to be about, two people struggling to find a reason to live ending up finding each other, and the complications this brings with the world in the state that it's in.

The first thing that hits you about the film are the practical effects, every gory swipe of the sword or attack of a creature is squelchy and oozing and nicely enjoyable. The film isn't short of ways this is put to use either, from hearts being wrenched from chests to skin flapping open and limbs being severed. If you have a weak complexion, you will likely struggle with this. On the other hand, the dark robed figures are also ominously threatening even when there isn't carnage on the screen, their watching mind-addling presence not unlike the Ringwraithes in The Lord of the Rings. It is nice to find a film that is equally good at the gore and the subtle stuff. 

There is one particularly good scene where someone is talking about the black robes. The hues of the woodland are garish and strange and all that you see is the silhouette of one of the creatures, before a naughty jump-scare flash but still, a great scene. The film also has a very nice high-quality score to accompany the action, which is something that I particularly enjoyed.

I found the weakest link in the chain to be some of the acting however. Both main characters seemed to be very stiff-faced for the most part and barely reactive to what was going on, in my opinion at least. Rachel cries well in a certain scene and shows a little emotion near the end of the film, but when other atrocities are going on around her she seems strangely blank. Lance too suffered from this, but he did have moments of combat rage and a wry smile in a “teach me some swordplay” scene, as did she. There is also an exchange with another human character that felt very stilted and rushed which just didn't sit that well with me.

The Sky Has Fallen is an enjoyable horror film that gives the viewer plenty to enjoy in its 79 minute run time. The creatures and carnage show a lovely degree of inventive variety and some of the shots were really visceral in a beautiful way. The arc of the story seemed pretty well-paced and the film felt like it was about the right length, if not possibly a shade too long.

I give The Sky Has Fallen 3/5. Enjoyable, but I just couldn't become that emotionally involved with the character portrayal I saw on screen. You can visit The Sky Has Fallen's website here for more info.

I was given free access to a review copy of the film.

Film Title: The Sky Has Fallen
Written and directed by: Doug Roos

Images used in this review are © Copyright Lost Forever Productions

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Dark Film Review - The Gift

I review Joel Edgerton's directorial debut film The Gift over on Amongst Geeks. A creepy film with some great acting from Mr Edgerton (and others) that gives you plenty to mull over after watching. Read my full review at this link.

Image © Copyright Lionsgate

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Dark Game Review - Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night

I take a look at the card-based world-saving PC game Chainsaw Warrior: Lords of the Night over on Amongst Geeks at this link, a fun, well presented slice of solo-gaming goodness.

Image © Copyright Auroch Digital

Friday, 14 August 2015

Dark Game Review - Hydraulic Empire

I review a good steampunk tower defense PC game called Hydraulic Empire over on Amongst Geeks at this link.

Image © Copyright Solitude Entertainment

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Dark Film Review - Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

I review Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation over on Amongst Geeks, a by the numbers espionage film that still features some great stunts and spectacle. You can read my full review at this link.

Image © Copyright Paramount Pictures

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Dark Book Review - The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man

I review book two in Mark Hodder's steampunk Burton and Swineburne series The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man over on Amongst Geeks. You can read my review by clicking on this link.

Image © Copyright Snowbooks

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Dark Film Review - Ant-Man

I take a look at Marvel's Ant-Man over on Amongst Geeks, a film that exceeded my expectations. You can read my full review here.

Image © Copyright Marvel Studios

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Dark Fiction - Irrational Fears Is Out Now!

A short while ago I posted that one of my short stories, Unravelled, would be in a new anthology by FTB Press. That anthology, Irrational Fears, released a few days ago and is now available to buy from Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. The paperback is currently £6.42 / $9.99, the Kindle version is currently £1.99 / $3.10. Click here for the book on Amazon UK and here for it on Amazon US.