Saturday 30 May 2015

Dark TV Review- Daredevil

I take a look at the Daredevil TV series and give kudos for the grit it injects into a great concept. You can read my full review of season one over on Amongst Geeks here.

Image © Copyright Marvel Television

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Gadget Review -

I review the ReTrak Retractable Universal Mico/Mini cable over on Amongst Geeks at this link. A handy cable that helps the user avoid the bane of modern life: cable clutter.

Image © Copyright Emerge Technologies

Sunday 24 May 2015

Dark Book Review – Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies

Dark Book Review – Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies

Written by Casey Douglass

If you have any awareness about the state of modern entertainment, you will almost certainly have noticed that zombies are definitely a thing again. We had our Twilight and True Blood vampire thing, now the flesh dripping shambling undead are the darlings once more. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder! Jessica Robinson's book Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies looks at why we find them so fascinating, what this says about us, how realistic our fears are and how we might best survive a zombie apocalypse. What more could you want from a book?

Blurb: Jessica Robinson's obsession with zombie films started when she was in junior high. Horror films are a great lens to examine concerns society has about modern science. Let’s face it, when it comes to horror movies, science has a bad reputation. Blind ambition, experimental serums, and genetic experiments are often blamed for the giant monster terrorizing the city or the reason aliens are taking human prisoners or the cause of the dead rising from the grave to consume living flesh.

Using film, literature, and interviews with experts, Robinson examines how zombies portray real-world fears such as epidemics, mind control, what may or may not exist in space, the repercussions of playing God, and the science behind the fears. Robinson's goal is to explore how zombies become a metaphor for our fears of science and what could happen if science gets out of hand.

Jessica begins by detailing how her obsession with the undead began, before moving onto the more complex than it sounds issue of what an actual zombie is, and various cultures’ takes on the matter. I found this section particularly enlightening and enjoyed reading about the various kinds, their supposed powers and abilities, and the ways the suffering populace in the area were best advised to take them down. She also explains how science is nearly always portrayed as the scapegoat, the ineffectual scientists not helping in an outbreak or even worse, causing it by their meddling with nature.

The reader is then taken through various scenarios or methods of transmission if a zombie contagion was really out there in the wild. This includes a visit to the water treatment facilities and Jessica’s asking of an expert on his opinion of the threat. This pattern continues for the next sections of the book, raising an issue such as biological weapons, science running amok etc. and then looking at the possible ways that these things could really come about.

This all might sound a little dry to anyone who isn’t a die hard zombie fan but Jessica does a great job of presenting the information in a way that almost anyone will be able to relate to and understand. She does this by utilising films. Have you seen World War Z? The Crazies? Night of the Living Dead? These are just some of the films Jessica uses as a means to exploring the particular issues they might contain, and it is very effective too. It’s one thing to talk about panspermia but quite another to read about it in relation to Night of the Living Dead.

One thing that I didn’t particularly like about the book was the way Jessica referenced previous chapters in an almost essayist way. If you have just read a chapter on a certain topic and moved on to the next, it feels a little strange to come to a piece of text which then tells you the chapter that the topic came from. I feel a little mean picking on this but it made the book feel a little like a group of essays that were put together and it just felt odd to me. I can’t fault much else in the book so maybe that's the only reason I have found something that comes down to taste rather than a more objective issue.

Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies is a very easy read and Jessica has a great writing style. I’m familiar with more than a few zombie philosophy issues, and I still learned a good deal about some of the issues around the topic. If you are a zombie fan in any shape or form, I recommend Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies, I don’t think you'll regret it! I rate it 4.5/5.

Click here for more info about Jessica, her book and ways to contact her.

Title: Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies
Author: Jessica Robinson
Publisher: Booktrope Editions
Published: 28 Oct. 2014
Pages: 202

Friday 22 May 2015

Dark Gig - Coal Chamber and Soil

Last night I went to another fine gig at the Norwich Waterfront. It featured four bands: Dope, The Defiled, Soil and Coal Chamber. I have to admit that I only really had eyes (or should that be ears) for the last two. Dope were good to listen to, and The Defiled followed with their own brand of heavy, but once Soil took to the stage it was on another level, for me at least.
Ryan Mccombs belted out songs from their very first album, all the way to their newest, but the highlight for me was 'Unreal', a song that almost took the roof off.

Coal Chamber took to the stage next and again, it was another performance that shook the club. Starting with a brutal rendition of 'Loco', Dez Fafara and the band hit various albums for their set list, highlights being 'Fiend', 'Rowboat,' and one of my personal favourites, 'Sway', which saw the mosh pit go mental.
Coal Chamber
It was a great night and I hope they come back to Norwich again in the future as I'd definitely be up for a replay.

Dark Film Review - Mad Max: Fury Road

I review Mad Max: Fury Road over on Amongst Geeks here. A fitting entry to the Mad Max series and one that will hopefully lead to more of the same!

Image © Copyright Warner Bros. Pictures

Thursday 21 May 2015

Dark Book Review - The Art and Making of Hannibal: The Television Series

I take a look at The Art and Making of Hannibal: The Television Series, a fantastic book that gives great behind the scenes insight into one of the darkest and most interesting TV series in a long time. You can read my full review on Geek Syndicate here.

 Image © NBCUniversal Media LLC. And Titan Books

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Dark Book Review - Gideon Smith & The Mechanical Girl

I review great steampunk novel Gideon Smith & The Mechanical Girl over on Amongst Geeks. A great penny dreadful infused novel with some fantastic interplay between well-known literary characters. Click here to read my full review.

Image © Copyright Snowbooks Ltd

Dark Film Review - Avengers: Age of Ultron

I review Avengers: Age of Ultron over on Amongst Geeks, a seemingly by the numbers Marvel film with some great set pieces and effects. Click here to read the full review.

Image © Copyright Marvel Studios

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Dark Music Review – Dakhma

Dark Music Review – Dakhma

Written By Casey Douglass

Council of Nine (California, USA) debuts with a carefully crafted and masterfully produced album that carries the listener to a place of ancient history, through death into the void beyond. Previously known for his celebrated work on the Tomb of Empires split album, he shows here what he can do when given free range to encapsulate the listener on a full album. The bowed reverberation echoes across time and space while the holy sub frequencies of the universe are used to great effect to create a textural backdrop to isolation.

Council of Nine created one of my favourite dark ambient tracks of recent times: Chimes of the Unfortunate on the Tomb Of Empires album (you can read my review here). Seeing a whole album come from him in the guise of Dakhma made me hope that I would find some more tracks to pin my praise to. While none seem to match the lighter tone of Chimes of the Unfortunate, what he has produced in Dakhma is a darker, more insidious album, one that shakes the listeners sensibilities in its own gently rumbling way.

My descriptions of the tracks below incorporate a continuous narrative that suggested itself to me as I listened, taking into account the track titles and the images created by the music in my mind.

The Tracks

The Magi – A very quiet start gently guides the listener into an expansive drone punctuated with smaller and more delicate sounds and reverberations. The title and soundscape conjured images of an abandoned temple, shadows the only thing to lace its walls. In the centre, an elderly robed figure is knelt, liver-spotted hands weaving traceries of light in the air, the dust motes floating down from the ceiling the only other movement as the atmosphere thickens.

Tower of Silence – A sound that conjures the nature of wind swells with a harsher fluctuating tone that fizzes and undulates with speed variations and movement. Some of it sounds like thunder slowed and sped up. Haunting piano competes with the atmosphere. The figure from before has completed their occult working and now the structure around them trembles in contemplation.

Sacrifice – A shuffling marching sound seeps into the ear, a drone growing in strength with hints of higher tones and reverberation nestling quietly at its back. Then everything grows with an echoing melody flirting with a larger drone, like pent up forces about to be unleashed. The distortions and higher pitched tones create an oppressive soundscape that rumbles and looms, consistent yet fluid at the same time. The figure collapses in a heap, a trickle of blood slinking from the edge of their open mouth and slowly pooling on the dusty stone floor beneath their cheek. All becomes quieter before loud disturbances erupt near the end of the track. Something is coming.

Nasu – Piano and a dopplering beat are soon met by a rumbling drone, hints of whisper and threat permeating the space in-between. Its like the ‘shhh’ equivalent of ‘psst’, for want of a better description. Whistling joins just after the midpoint, an eerie sound that mingles uncomfortably with the soundscape. The robed figure is voiding, their juices and essence giving the stone floor the first shine it was had for many an age.

The Ossuary – This track enjoys a more electronic sound, the piano from the last track joining with a tinkling sparking sound that shrouds itself in a soft drone. The stained grey stone flakes from the walls around the figure, the glowing ethereal fa├žade of crystal shining through from beneath. The whole temple shudders and jerks itself free of its previous form, the sole remains of the figure consisting of a skull and bones. This track has a sadness to it, like the tang of a life wasted.

Circle of the Sun – A looming dripping track that echoes with pent up whispers and shifting forces. As the volume grows, everything around the skull and bones becomes hazy, darkness seeping through and blurring the outlines, tiny sparks of gold dancing along the edges that are still visible. The air rumbles with a steady drone, an electro-string note arcing like the call of some strange beast. Chanting follows, the vocals fading into the droning abyss that is slowly claiming everything.

My Opinion

Dakhma is certainly a dark album, the soundscapes it creates all seem to drip with unseen forces and hints of sadness. The instances where the sound is wound up and down in tempo (I’m thinking of ‘Tower of Silence’ here), is an effect I personally very rarely, if ever, hear in dark ambient music. It brings to mind an image of a sinister DJ entertaining the legions of hell.

Dakhma is a smooth album, one that can be relaxed to, your mind left to wander, but it’s also an album that rewards the attentive listener with its various layers of sound.

I give Dakhma 4.5/5 and I hope to see more come from Council of Nine as soon as possible.

Have a look at the Dakhma page here on Bandcamp to find out more.

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

Album Title: Dakhma
Artist: Council of Nine
Label: Cryo Chamber
Written and Produced: Maximillian Olivier
Artwork and Mastering - Simon Heath
Released : 28th April 2015

Monday 18 May 2015

My Dark Tale 'Unravelled' to be in Irrational Fears Anthology

My fiction writing has sadly slipped since the start of the year. I did however, find something in an issue of one of my writing magazines that made me feel I had a chance with a submission. That submission was for FTB Press' Irrational Fears anthology and, I am happy to say, my story Unravelled was accepted. This is another great milestone for me when it comes to my writing so I am very chuffed. Stay tuned for more info.

Friday 15 May 2015

Dark Music Review - Helluland

Dark Music Review – Helluland

Written By Casey Douglass

From Canadian duo Northumbria (Jim Field and Dorian Williamson) comes this guitar based ambient drone album. This album is the product of recording sessions during late 2013 and most of 2014, and was heavily inspired the Norse discovery of Baffin Island in Canada over a thousand years ago. The Vikings called this new discovery Helluland... "the land of flat stone" in Old Norse.

Guitar-based dark ambient albums are quite the rarity, in my own personal exposure to the genre at least. But like any genre, the diversity and expansion of the so-called “norms” only serve to make it stronger and gives it the chance to appeal to other aspects of the listener's personality. Northumbria's Helluland is just such an album and it has a beautiful sound that insinuates rather than blatantly blares its colours.

The Tracks

The first track “Because I am Flawed I Forgive You” begins with the sound of the sea, with bird calls sounding at a distance. Then the first notes begin to sound, gentle and slightly distorted, a peaceful scene given a soundtrack that lulls and to me, depicts nature at its stony chilly best.

“Still Waters” starts with a higher pitched sound that interplays with drones and dark rumbles as the composition continues, the peace of the earlier sections meeting a sadder tone.

“Sacred Ground” is a ghostly track, hints of voice at the beginning fading into shifting swaying chords, a deeper sound joining them with dainty guitar-plucks and looming gloom.

“Maelstrom” is another track that starts with the gentle sounds of the ocean, until wind and drones flood forward, the sky awash with particles and grit that scours everything clean that they kiss. This is a deeper, harsher track than the ones that precede it, but breathtaking in its claustrophobic feeling.

“A Door Made of Light 1” and “A Door Made of Light 2” are next, lighter, daintier tracks that go back to the ghostly and intangible, the hint of voice and resonances climbing the note scale in echoing grace.

“Song For Freyja” is a breathy track, winding sounds and voices mingling with guitar notes and echoing reverberations making it feel like it represents the space in which a mountain top touches the sky.

“Catch A Falling Knife 1” begins softly and soon descends into a deep-strummed rhythm with almost screeching guitar notes. It is certainly a well named track as it does have a certain sharpness to it.

“Helluland” is a majestic track that seems to encapsulate the soundscapes and flavour of the previous tracks in one long medley that sweeps and guides the listener through every peak and valley of a mountain range.

“Catch A Falling Knife 2” is the final track on the album and mirrors the first in a number of ways but overlays a far darker and heavier tone as it passes the midpoint.

My Opinion

I found Helluland to be an album that creates great feelings of space and nature, the guitar-notes seeming to glance off from hard stone and ice and mingle with the airy echoing feelings of the sky above. If there was ever a soundtrack for a video of clouds casting shadows across a snowy and rocky landscape in accelerated time, this is it. I enjoyed the feeling of coldness and isolation, it was relaxing and there was little to jar me into a more alert frame of mind. Helluland is another great dark ambient album that should expand your ears and musical inclinations by serving up something that is emotive and less common than its competition in the dark ambient market place. I give Helluland 4/5.

Have a look at the Helluland page here on Bandcamp to find out more.

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

Album Title: Helluland
Artist: Northumbria
Label: Cryo Chamber
Written, Produced, Performed: Dorian Williamson and Jim Field
Artwork and Mastering: Simon Heath
Released : 31st March 2015

Thursday 14 May 2015

Dark Review - ReTrak Premier Series Retractable Stylus + Ballpoint Pen

If you are on the look out for a handy stylus/ballpoint pen combo, take a look at my review of the ReTrak Premier Series Retractable Stylus + Ballpoint Pen here on Amongst Geeks. It's a lovely premium feeling tool that you might just be interested in.

Image © Copyright Emerge Technologies

Dark Game Review - DiRT Rally

I take a look at Codemasters' return to the DiRT serie's roots as their DiRT Rally currently sits percolating in the Steam Early Access section. Read my review on Amongst Geeks here.

Image © Copyright Codemasters

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Dark Game Review - Uncanny Valley

I take a look at pixel horror game Uncanny Valley over on Amongst Geeks here. A grim and atmospheric PC horror.

Image © Copyright Cowardly Creations

Saturday 2 May 2015

Dark Game Review - Kaiju-A-GoGo

I review PC city stomping game Kaiju-A-GoGo over on Amongst Geeks at this link. A game with a great style and fun to boot!

Image © Copyright Kerberos Productions Inc.