Saturday, 27 August 2016

How To Use Naughty Spam Email for Writing Inspiration

How To Use Naughty Spam Email for Writing Inspiration

Written By Casey Douglass

*Contains adult language but isn’t pornographic. Just a warning for delicate flowers visiting this post*

Over the course of the last week or so, I’ve had a particular spam email that seems to have made my junk folder its permanent home. The chances are high that it’s just an email with the same title but coming from different senders, but I’m not going to open it nor mouse over it to find out. The title is the focus of this little piece as it makes me chuckle and also, just might be a fun writing exercise.

“Save your neighbour with your cock!”

Isn’t it a doozy of a title? Now I know that spammers have to try all kinds of things to get your attention, or to get around your junk mail filter, and these usually leave a mangled mess as the title that looks more like the typer had a stroke while sending it than a proper sentence. It’s even less common for the titles to seem semi-creative. After I chuckled at this particular email’s second appearance, I got to wondering: How on earth would my neighbour ever be in a dangerous situation that would need my cock to get involved? I thought I would brainstorm some ideas, just for the hell of it, and obviously, this is just a bit of fun and not based upon my real neighbours, who are lovely people.

Okay, onto the possibilities:

Maybe an armed burglar would point a gun at us and say, “If you don’t fuck, your neighbour’s dead!” It’s a bit on the nose this one, I’m sure I can do better.

Another possibility could be that my neighbour is pinned against the wall by some slavering giant dog, more wolf than pet, whose only interest beyond killing and maiming lies in sausage-like objects dangling about 3 ft from the ground? Fucking ouch. I’ll try to avoid scenarios that end in eye-watering fashion I think.

Maybe my neighbour is defusing a complicated bomb that has so many strange wires and devices attached to it, that she needs an extra pair of hands and a handy protuberance to loop wires over to keep them out of the way? Doubt you’d ever see that scene in Mission Impossible, but if it went well, we’d all survive I’d imagine.

I might just be over thinking the title. It could mean something as simple as “save your neighbour’s blushes”. Maybe she is hosting a nude painting class and has told everyone how good it will be, but the model has dropped out and would I stand in for him? It might save my neighbour’s blushes but it wouldn’t save mine.

I'm sure that the longer I sit, the more ideas I will generate, but I think I’ve reached the end of my interest in this one now. I think it just goes to show, you don’t always need a posh writing prompt from some upmarket literature website to get your ideas popping; even the utter shite that fills your email junk folder can be fodder for pondering. Just be sensible and don’t open any of them.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Dark Film Review – Lights Out

Dark Film Review – Lights Out

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Lights Out Film Poster

From the moment I saw the trailer for horror film Lights Out, I was very interested in seeing what looked like a horror based on a slightly fresher idea than the usual ones that seem to be redone ad infinitum. I was able to watch it at the cinema last night and my thoughts basically revolve around three words: it was okay.

The film follows the story of a boy (played by Gabriel Bateman) who just wants a good night’s sleep but can’t get one. The reason behind this is that the house he shares with his mentally troubled mother has a third, shadowy occupant who roams the hallways and generally creeps around in a way that would probably keep any one of us up at night. He flees to his sister (played by Teresa Palmer) for help, but it seems that nowhere is beyond the thing’s reach.

The key idea for the film is that the creature/ghost/monster only really has power and appears when it’s dark. I really like this, probably because it harks back to many childhood fears that saw countless children rushing for the light switch when they thought something was lurking in the dark. As far as its use in Lights Out, I found it to be very effective. The film does a good job of building the tension, better so than actually being scary. An example is one of the first few times the apparition appears, crouching in an open doorway scratching on the floor with its back to the camera. It was pure silhouette, but when it stopped scratching and turned to look at the camera, my whole body chilled into goosebumps. 

Lights Out Photo

Then the whole effect was pissed away by a standard jump-scare sequence, with the sound ramped up to silly levels, to try and raise the audience’s pulse rates. Predictable and a bit disappointing, even though you could kind of guess what the film would be like before even sitting in your cinema seat. The film didn't make me jump once. It creeped me out, as in my goose-bump example, so it did connect with me on some primal level, but it wasn’t particularly scary. Some of this is likely down to an affliction that many horror fans seem to have, a kind of immunity to jumps and frights that would make a more green viewer reach for the hand of the person next to them.

On a more mundane level, I wasn’t a fan of the actor who played the young boy. I just didn’t think he really cut it, and I’m pretty sure near the end he actually looked at the camera when he wasn’t supposed to. The other acting was fine however, the sister was played particularly well I thought, although this did mainly seem to entail making her eyes get wider and wider. As far as the creature, it has a great audio signature that foreshadows its appearance, and being only visible in silhouette certainly adds to the suspense. As in most creature-features though, this film trips over the line of showing too much, in my opinion, particularly in a late scene where you see its face briefly. Leave some things to the imagination! Grumble over.

Lights Out is a genuinely creepy, but not really scary, horror. It is worth watching but I would only give it 3/5. I think it could have been so much better.

Lights Out Images © Copyright Warner Bros.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Dark Music Review - Wychhound EP

Dark Music Review - Wychhound EP

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Wychhound EP Cover Art

A few nights ago, I was browsing the interwebs like a bored spider looking for a fly, and I came across Wychhound, a North London Stoner rock/grungy metally band. I gave their EP a listen and was pretty bowled over by what I heard.

Cold Temple opens with an easy pace, Jimmy Holified’s vocals sitting comfortably on layers of fuzzy guitar and punchy drums. Then the main chorus hits “It’s gonner follow you-uuu--”, the guitar swelling and cosseting the words, before letting rip a little as the next verse kicks in. Cold Temple is a seriously ear-worming track, and features some nice changes of pace and soloing, especially in the second part of the track, which turns into a different kind of beast.

Next up is House of Cards, a track that opens with gentle guitar melody and a more relaxed tone. As the heavier guitar backing comes in, it foreshadows the melody of the chorus, kicking off with the “I am the wind that blows” and venting until things die down once more for the rest of the song. Just after the midpoint of the track brace yourself for a fantastic guitar solo too.

Truant Mind is the penultimate track, and it starts with a heavy pounding wall of noise and a drum rhythm that grabs your forehead and forces it into a nodding pattern. Jimmy’s vocals really cry out well in this track, embodying the angst of the subject of the song. I enjoyed Truant Mind for these reasons but did find it less ear-worming than the previous two.

Last up is Hourglass, listed as a bonus track. After an upbeat opening interspersed with heavier doses of guitar, things get even heavier as the vocals kick in, backed by a wall of fuzz that dances and buoys up the soulful words. Again, not a 100% ear-worming track but the rhythm still gets you nodding along.

The Wychhound EP is a solid collection of tracks that all feature some great rhythms and themes. I really clicked with the first two but enjoyed the others as well. A quick browse of Wychhound’s Facebook page appears to show that they are working on their next EP at the moment, which on the basis of what I have heard already, I will be eager to check out. I’d give the Wychhound EP 4/5: it’s just the kind of thing that I enjoy at the moment and has entered my album rotation. That should say it all really.

Wychhound consists of Jimmy Holifield (Vocals), Miles Mcdonald (Guitar), Roberto Pini (Guitar), Neil Neighbour (Bass) and Sid Naghdi (Drums).

Visit Wychhound on their Bandcamp page here and check out Cold Temple below:

Album Title: Wychhound EP
Artist: Wychhound
Cover Art: Ben Hickman
Released: March 24, 2015

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Dark Music Review – Sanctum

Dark Music Review – Sanctum

Review Written By Casey Douglass

Sanctum Album Art

Metatron Omega returns with his second album out of Serbia on Cryo Chamber. Dark gothic choirs, ritual drone and archaic atmospheres strives to enlighten the listener on this esoteric Dark Ambient album. Recommended for those wanting to explore the soundscapes of Majestic Cathedrals, Sacral Monasteries, Secret Orders and Occult Rituals.

Metatron Omega’s Sanctum is probably one of the first dark ambient albums that I’ve listened to that is so overtly gothic and choral in nature. If a good number of albums seem to start in the darkness, Sanctum appears to start in a peaceful monastery garden with golden sunlight and harmonious voices all around. It’s very relaxing and soothing. As you might expect from a Cryo Chamber release however, things don’t stay that straightforward for long.

After the birdsong and peace at the beginning of opening track Transductio, the same track takes a darker turn, like a shadowy taint on the air, a drone seeps in from the background, vying with the melodic male chants that rise above it. It doesn’t take long for these chants to become warped and twisted, darker undertone chants subtly ramping up the “things not right” factor, before things go all out bleak at around the midpoint of its running time. Strange chimes, unkind winds and a feeling of a hostile space take over, and it’s a really great listening experience.

Up next is In Search of Lost Wisdom, a track that begins with an effect like a howling wind at distance, married to the fabric-restricted sound of what sounds like someone breathing through a mask. Organ-like notes blare, growing and fading in volume, interspersed with snatches of choral harmony. The track then becomes a bell-ringing rumbling-infused space in which the sacral chanting repeats and dances hypnotically in the ear. Things quieten at the midpoint, the soundscape changing into an echo-chamber of knockings and undulating distortions. The chants return in a muted way in the last third, the general tone feeling melancholy and downhearted.

Cultus is next. It starts with a smooth stuttering effect which is soon joined by a sustained sacral tone that pulses and changes little. Other chants sing along at intervals, the delicate notes of chimes lending some feeling of sunlight to what otherwise might feel like another dark and shady track. Swelling bowing effects emerge around half way through, before deep notes bubbling below more chime tinkling takes over. Later, the track sinks into a pregnant void, much rumbling vibration and slow uplifts of female chants competing with more chimes.

Trinitas starts with a sonorous bell-ringing sound that flaps and flops with distortion. A return of the repeating hypnotic chant effect appears, darker swellings and chanting underpinning and then subsuming the soundscape into something wholly more twisted. Strings emerge later, the looping chant and the clanking sounds of infernal clockwork their accompaniment. Things quieten as more clanking and banging echoes out, a gentle electronic warbling seeming to ape their echoes. The second half of this track is a broodier, more rumbling affair, a bit like the vacuum left after a clap of thunder.

The penultimate track, The Eastern Star, throbs into life, higher tones counterpointing the bassy swellings. The higher tones take on a kind of revved up jet engine effect, if a little more muted than that would sound. Chants are later joined by a rhythmic beat that adds a shamanic effect to the soundscape, although it still conjures images of majestic temples, to me at least. The final third features machine-like rattlings and distorted voices on the wind, a repeating beat and sand-like particle scrapings seeing the track end with a strange kind of energy.

The final track is called Sanctum, and it begins with what could be a muted explosion, brief slices of chant, and a growing drone, that all give the impression of being slightly removed from where the real action is, like holing up in a safe place during an outbreak of conflict. The chants echo and drift, like the kind that float down from high-ceilings and centuries old masonry. Chimes sound like multiple clocks all reaching midnight at once, furtive flutterings shooting past the listener as the world takes a breath. From the midpoint onwards, the drone becomes higher and lighter, with higher tones and resonances building on top, before things take a turn for the dark again as the end approaches.

Sanctum is an album that does a wonderful job of living up to its description. It evokes the sense of being in sacred places, peaceful sanctuaries and dark temples with great aplomb, making it a fine album to listen to when feeling in a contemplative mood, or simply when just wanting to rest. I have fallen asleep at least half of the times I have listened to it whilst laying down, which only goes to show how relaxing it can be, even if you do have to have a certain dark nature to find it so. Gregorian chants this is not. You will likely already know if the concept of the album will appeal to you or not, but even if you don’t have any set ideas, at least check out a few of the tracks before you make your mind up. It’s another 4.5/5 album for me.

You can check out the first track Transductio below:

Visit the Sanctum page on Bandcamp here for more information.

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

Album Title: Sanctum
Artist: Metatron Omega
Label: Cryo Chamber
Artwork: Scorpio V & Simon Heath
Cover Photography: Peter Van Der Velde
Released: August 16, 2016

Friday, 19 August 2016

Dark Book Review - One Year Wiser: A Gratitude Journal

I've taken a look at the newest book in the One Year Wiser range, this one comes in the guise of a gratitude journal, a place to write down the things that you are most thankful for. It's a lovely book and you can read my review of One Year Wiser: A Gratitude Journal on Geek Syndicate at this link.
One Year Wiser: A Gratitude Journal
One Year Wiser: A Gratitude Journal Cover © Copyright Self Made Hero

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Dark Music Review – Warrior Sound

Dark Music Review – Warrior Sound

Review Written by Casey Douglass

Warrior Sound CD Art

My first experience of The Qemist’s mix of electronic rock, breakbeats and ear-worming vocals was at a gig where they were supporting Crossfaith, a fantastic pairing of two bands that share a love of pumped up electronic melodies draped over a thumping heavy metal skeleton. Think Frankenstein’s monster, but with a DJ deck and a guitar instead of a bolt through the neck and a strange walk. Suffice to say that after hearing The Qemists at that gig, I made sure to buy their 3rd studio album Warrior Sound at the next possible opportunity.

Warrior Sound is a 12 track album that opens with an intro track that puts me a little in mind of the start of Kick-Ass, like the backing track to the amateur superhero before they fly off into the night (or crash onto the roof of a car). Once we are through that, we are onto the meat of the album, which features songs that contain a heady mix of rock, electronica and drum and bass. If you are a fan of The Prodigy, Chase and Status, or similar bands, you will likely find something to enjoy here. As an example, Push The Line is a track that I clicked with well because it put me strongly in mind of No More Idols era Chase and Status, the only album I successfully got into of C&S. I think the “They won’t bring me down!” hook and the way the music builds and swells just appeals to me in a way that not all electronic and d&b stuff can.

The Qemists With Kenta Koie
A photo taken by myself showing Kenta Koie on stage with The Qemists for Anger.
The Qemists are masters of ear-worming lyrics that also manage to mean something and pump up the listener. A fine example is Anger featuring Crossfaith’s Kenta Koie. This is a rumbling roiling track that bubbles under the chorus, which includes the line “See we're two wolves inside, my anger salivates”, which I particularly like. Certainly a song about empowering yourself and holding to your own course, not being swayed by the haters and the weak. This is an element that runs through much of Warrior Sound, the us against them mentality and intolerance towards the inequalities in our society. A perfect example of this is Jungle, featuring Hactivist, an expansive track with vocals that punch and spit before the main pounding chorus takes over. Run You is another hyping up track, an anthem that says: “don’t let them run you” and to do what you want to do, interspersed with textured electronic sounds and a fast-paced beat. This track is a good one to head-bang to as well.

Warrior Sound is a fine album and one that could likely appeal to metal heads just as surely as fans of drum and bass. If your music taste lies in one of these areas, check it out and see if it’s your thing. If it is, you might like to check out Crossfaith too, although in my opinion, they inject a bit more metal into their music. I give Warrior Sound 4.5/5.

Visit The Qemists at this link for tour info etc., and take a watch of their video for Run You from their official YouTube channel below:

Album Title: Warrior Sound
Artist: The Qemists
Label: Amazing Record Co.
Genre: Dance, Electronic, Rock
Released: 4 March 2016

Warrior Sound CD Cover Image © Copyright The Qemists

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Dark Book Review - One Year Wiser – The Colouring Book

I take a look at One Year Wiser – The Colouring Book, a de-stressing colouring book by Zen practitioner and illustrator Mike Medaglia. You can read my review over on Geek Syndicate at this link.

One Year Wiser – The Colouring Book
One Year Wiser – The Colouring Book Cover © Copyright Self Made Hero