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I am become Seth…

Big Picture Science review

Rating –

big picture science logo

A month or so ago, if you’d have asked me who Seth Shostak is, I would have spent about an hour wracking my brain whilst cursing you. I’ve known the name for years, and I would have guessed that it was something to do with UFOs. I wouldn’t be too far from the mark I guess, because he is the senior astronomer for SETI. Despite hearing this podcast advertised on nearly every episode of Penn’s Sunday School, I never put the two things together (my ears tend to switch themselves off when adverts start so I skip forward a minute or two). After hearing him interviewed on Monster Talk, I subscribed and with some trepidation, pressed play.

So what’s it about?

I say trepidation, because whilst I love highbrow “brainy” (or “geek bullshit” if you ask my partner) podcasts, I don’t really listen to many pure science shows.

Big Picture Science is a weekly podcast that examines different subjects and interviews scientists in the relevant fields. Seth Shostak and his co-host Molly Bentley are excellent presenters. My indecision was unfounded and I’ve quickly fallen in love with this brilliant series.

The show cover a diverse range of topics including global warming, conspiracy theories, robots and exactly what it’s like inside a black hole. Of course, being based at SETI, there are plenty of discussions on the search for earthlike planets and astronomy.

Is it any good?

This is one of those highbrow podcasts that covers intellectual subjects in a very easy to understand manner. The sometimes complex subject matter is always put forward in a relatively jargon free and entertaining manner. Seth and Molly’s sense of humour shines through, yet is never inane, and they are both as eager to find out about new things as the guests are to tell them (and us) about it.

Being that the early episodes are 12 years old (on my podcasther anyway), some of the news stories they cover have actually finished. The fact that I know how the stoires play out doesnt detract from them at all. There is always some little detail that I had missed, or that they explain in a better way. This is why its so good.

Final thoughts

If you’re looking for something different to your main diet of fiction or true crime, then you really should check this out. It’s very similar in style to podcasts like Monster Talk or The Tetrapod Zoology Podcast, and is one that with its hundreds of episodes, will keep me amused for a very long time.

I appreciate that this is on the shorter end of reviews I’ve written, especially when I devoted about 800 words to a three brain show a few weeks back. I could have really just said “This is a brilliant podcast, subscribe immediately”. That isn’t really a review though is it? You should though. Subscribe immediately I mean.

You can get Big Picture Science here:

https://radio.seti.org/

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Creepypasta al Formaggio

We’re Not Meant To Know review

Rating –

We're Not Meant To Know logo

This is one that I discovered via various people I follow on twitter. This is something I really like about Twitter, the recommendations are usually more relevant than podcatcher algorithms. The premise sounded good, so on nothing more than that, I subscribed and crossed my fingers.

“But Mr. Podcastgeek” I hear you ask.

“Was it love at first play?”

Well, I’ll smile in that way that a parent does when a child asks something silly, ruffle your hair and ask if you’re sitting comfortably. Are you? Then I’ll begin.

So what’s it about?

Purely going off the title (as I did), you’d almost expect this to be a podcast about conspiracy theories and shady government shenanigans. If that is indeed what you’re expecting, then I’m afraid you might be rather disappointed.

We’re Not Meant To Know is a horror anthology series very much in the vein of Creepypasta stories and podcasts like The Wrong Station. The production is minimalist, with each story being narrated in the first person by the same husky voiced (and as yet unnamed) person. I guess that’s one of the things “we’re not meant to know”. Each episode is a standalone horror story, although there are certainly options to expand on some of these at a later date.

I must admit that as the first episode got underway, I was almost thinking they could be true stories. I’ve binged on podcasts like Radio Rental, so I tend not to be too dismissive about people’s actual experiences. As the series progresses and the stories become more outlandish though, there is no doubt that these are works of fiction.

Is it any good?

I really want to like this show, but I’m afraid I can’t. As you’ll be aware by now, I’m rather a sucker for minimalist horror told by sonorous narrators. This podcast though is almost a pastiche. The narrator has a slight gravelly tone to his voice that keeps making me want to clear my throat. I actually went from a binge of this show to a few episodes of A Voice From Darkness, and it seems that there’s a definite “inspiration” to the vocal style. Ultimately though, this series lacks the charm and the style of a show like AVFD, and the narrator is no Dr Malcolm Ryder which is a shame.

The stories themselves are well written, even if there’s nothing groundbreaking here. I’ve heard worse, a lot worse. Time will tell if I’ll carry on with this, or if it will just languish in my podcast list, the episode count growing ever higher.

Final thoughts

Over the course of this post, I’ve made comparisons to various podcasts, which some may feel is unfair. It is both like the podcasts I mentioned, and yet not really like them. These comparisons are made only to give you some idea of what to expect.

I don’t feel I can recommend this podcast when there are so many better options out there. It’s not terrible, but it’s really not great. Give it a go if you want though, I’m only human and far from infallible. You may like it and think me an idiot, you wouldn’t be the first.

You can get We’re not Meant to Know here:

https://wnmtkpod.libsyn.com/

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

No more heroes anymore

Disgraceland review

Rating –

Disgraceland logo

I am becoming aware that recently I’ve been giving every podcast the maximum 5 brain rating. I’m worried that if I just keep saying “yes, this is great ” then there’s no benchmark. Not everything can be perfect all the time can it? So in the interest of balance and not giving everything top marks, here is one that is something of a problem child. I hope you’ll understand my reasons here and give it a go anyway. Well as much as you can. Read on and I’ll explain this rather cryptic introduction.

So what’s it about?

Disgraceland is a podcast covering the various scandals and misdemeanors of music’s great and good (and bad). Each episode covers a different story and they run the whole gamut of decades and genres. There are some wild tales to be found here, and also some heartbreaking ones too, but each is told with the amount of respect deserved. Just because someone is famous, doesn’t make them an exhibit to be held up for public amusement does it? Or maybe you think it does. Maybe you like to read the paparazzi infested gossip magazines. Whatever, I’m not your dad. I can’t tell you what to do.

The show is narrated by Jake Brennan. He also writes, produces and composes the music, so the credits list is rather short. I first heard Jake on his other podcast Dead And Gone, about people who disappeared following The Grateful Dead around the country. This true crime podcast is on my “to review” list, and will be getting 600 or so words dedicated to it very soon.

Jake has the kind of achingly cool American voice that you would expect someone who narrates rock music podcasts to have. His voice sounds like sunshine, surf wax, petrol and pot (at least to a Welsh nerd anyway). I don’t mean any disrespect here. He’s not just someone who sounds the part. He has a deep knowledge of musical history and he has a real talent for bringing any story to life, regardless of the era. This is purely down to his skill as a writer, and he avoids the usual cut and paste from Wikipedia problems that other shows on music history (by much more well known presenters) have fallen into.

Is it any good?

Yes and no. 

Now, I’m a massive music fan and I’m not really fussy about what I listen to. The playlist on my phone runs from Dixieland Jazz, to Death Metal, Psy-trance to 1970s Japanese Funk with some traditional West African music and Musique Concrete thrown in for good measure. There aren’t many stories told that I’m not familiar with, although there are a few. Because of this, I could rate it low and say “well, there aren’t any new stories here, I’ve heard them all before”. That’s not how I do things though. Just because I know something doesn’t mean that you will, so I keep powder dry and save my penalties for other things.

Want to hear about the time Jerry Lee Lewis wanted to murder Elvis? Or maybe you want to learn about Syd Barrett’s psychological fall from grace. Maybe you’re interested in the sorry story of Britney Spears’ lost childhood and subsequent mistreatment. If so, this is the show for you. Unfortunately, this is about all you’ll learn because this podcast seems to be subscription only. Or rather, you can listen for “free” on subscription based platforms. You can get the full thing on Amazon, or Apple podcasts, but I dont use them. There are very few episodes that are truly freely available, and the ones that are are brilliant. This makes the situation all the more annoying because I really want to rate this show higher.

Jake’s style of writing is like a (much) better version of the journalist Mick Wall. He puts himself in the situations that occur, and that really makes for an exciting story. For my money, Jake is a way better writer than Mr. Wall anyway. I’d love to read a full length biography written by him, or even better an audiobook narrated by him.

Final thoughts

As you know, and are probably bored of me telling you now, I only like to review podcasts that are freely available to everyone. This is certainly a good show, and very interesting, but I feel I can’t rate it higher purely because of the lack of available episodes. Even some that show up in my podcatcher won’t actually play.

The more cynical of you may well think that I’m picking on this podcast just to give it a poor rating, but I’m really not. I love this series and it’s a real shame when a new episode shows up in my list and it won’t play. Jake has his reasons and I’m not going to be all millennial (apart from the fact I’m too old) and expect everything for free all the time. It’s just disappointing that I get teased with such good content, and not get the whole shebang.

This is unfortunately a fatal flaw in an otherwise brilliant series. 

You can get disgraceland here:

https://www.disgracelandpod.com/

Or a few episodes from your usual podcatcher.

Terror never sounded so good

Uncanny Japan review

Rating –

Uncanny Japan logo

I love folklore, and (as I have said before) living in Wales there is plenty on offer. Because of this, I am often drawn to the more mysterious style podcasts. Whether actual folklore or fiction inspired by folklore, I just can’t get enough. Maybe it’s because of my love of J-Horror or Anime, but Japanese folklore has captivated me for years. When I stumbled across Uncanny Japan I immediately subscribed and pressed play with baited breath.

So what’s it about?

Each episode, the host, Thersa Matsuura explores a different aspect of Japanese Folklore. Don’t expect to yawn through well trodden tales of the Kappa, Urei and Yokai so beloved of western audiences. This series also covers the lesser known traditions, festivals, and mythical beings said to lurk in the shady corners of the country. These episodes are what you could call “bitesize”. Most podcasts on folklore tend to run at one hour plus, so these 20 minute gems are very short in comparison. I think there have been a few even shorter!

The episode starts out with a brief introduction with the beautiful binaural recordings, and then Thersa starts telling the stories. Not all of these are discovered from ancient sources, although many are. There are some modern day cases that crop up too, and in the later episodes there are similar tales from all over the world. While this does technically leave the Japanese side of the stories, I don’t mind. All stories have a shared source, and drawing these parallels are great fun.

Is it any good?

Definitely. Thersa expertly covers so much ground in each relatively short episode, yet it never feels rushed. The fact that a 20 minute episode can feel much longer could be used as an insult for a review of a lesser show, but here it is absolutely a compliment. This is partly due to her amazing calm voice and the use of atmospheric recordings of her surroundings. The incessant piping of frogs or chirping of cicadas could be somewhat Lovecraftian in the bleak heaths of New England. Here though, it really brings her stories to life.

These sound effects coupled with Thersa’s soporific voice would lend itself to be the perfect sleep aid, although I can’t guarantee a peaceful night’s sleep from some of the content here! There are some very creepy tales indeed, and the thought of having some of these dark denizens of the Japanese countryside invade my dreams isn’t something I’d relish.

Final thoughts

This is one of those shows that you don’t have to be interested in the subject to enjoy. Thersa is a joy to listen to and her knowledge of her subject matter is immense. She has also published books of fiction based on Japanese folklore as well (we are occasionally treated to some excerpts of these on the show).

Where other folklore shows have fallen by the wayside, either through the podcast coming to an end, or me getting bored, this one has got real staying power and is always great to listen to. Do yourselves a favour and give this series a go. You can thank me later.

This is also one of two podcasts on Japanese folklore that I had subscribed to, and the only one I am still subscribed to. Truth be told, I only ever listened to two episodes of the other one and gave up on it. Thersa has set the benchmark for Japanese culture!

You can listen to Uncanny Japan here:

uncannyjapan.com

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Enter the echo chamber

Two Flat Earthers Kidnap A Freemason review

Production Company – Good Pointe

Rating –

Two Flat Earthers Kidnap A freemason logo

Due to my recent acknowledgement that I really need to be on Twitter more to try and  build some semblance of an audience, I have been on a real voyage of discovery with regards to new shows. I had got to the end of a rather mediocre series, when the first episode of this was previewed. Mainly due to the cast (who I shall get into later) I subscribed and started on this strange and hilarious journey.

So what’s it about?

Two Flat Earthers Kidnap A Freemason is a comedy show dealing with conspiracy theories and social media. It follows the adventure of two struggling flat earth YouTubers named Dunning and Kruger (yeah, yeah, I know), who decide that in order to stand out from the other flat earth YouTubers (who are gaining more views than them) they need to do something dramatic. Cue the premise of the show’s title.

Whilst I’m sure that certain sections of the conspiracy world are as silly and misguided as this series portrays, I’m not so sure if the Freemasons are. Although maybe they are. They wouldn’t say so either way would they?

The disappearance of one of their own throws the Freemasons into a panic, and the game is afoot to try to figure out just who would be audacious enough to do this, and recover their brother.

Is it any good?

Absolutely. The story is very well written, and silly without being inane. The production values are high, and the characters are (mostly) all well acted. Speaking of the cast, there is some stellar talent here:

David Ault needs no introduction on this blog. If you’ve read my previous reviews then you’ll know I have immense admiration for his work, and his mere inclusion in a podcast is usually enough to get me onboard.

Graham Rowat is brilliant as the Alex Jones-alike radio host Newsham. I recognised his voice instantly from his other work. He also played my all time favourite podcast character, Sir Henry Blackwood (a.k.a. SCP 1867. I highly suggest you search for this particular episode and give it a listen. You wont be disappointed)*.

Josh Rubino also deserves an honourable mention for turning Isaac Newton into Steven Toast. Whether intentional or not, it makes for a very entertaining interpretation.

The only real criticisms I have are that there are times when the background music is too intrusive. This is usually when the characters are listening to The Newsham Hour. I may be missing a joke here, I mean I am at work when I listen to this, so maybe I’ll go back through one more time. Also, there are a few of the voice actors who aren’t quite up to the level of the main characters.

These are really pretty criticisms really, and they are the only downsides to an otherwise perfect series. I think it shows the quality of the podcast that I’m really struggling to find fault with it.

Final thoughts

This is a great, genuinely funny show. It’s one that makes a refreshing change from the horror and drama, both fictional and real, that fills my ears for 8 hours a day. I think you’ll love this show, unless the characters are a bit too close to home. In that case I advise you to adjust your tinfoil hat and follow this podcast’s advice for negative reviews.

As I was searching for a copy of the logo to use, I see that this show has also been made into a TV show. This seems to be something of a trend nowadays, and I can’t wait to see if it’s as good as the original. Truth be told, I was disappointed with the adaptation of Limetown.

I would also like to point out that whilst I am a fan of long titles (My old band had one of the longest album titles since Marc Bolan released his first album), this podcast has played havoc with my SEO settings. Do I use an acronym or not? I vote not. To hell with Google’s algorithms this time!

*The character of Sir Henry Blackwood was so beloved to me that I actually named one of my Call Of Cthulhu investigators after him. Although I brought him forward to the 1920s and made him a bit more “Terry Thomas”, the DNA was there though, and I’ll love the mad old sod forever.

You can get Two Flat Earthers Kidnap A Freemason here:

https://pod.link/1582700456

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

This seems to be another one of those podcasts that doesnt have a proper website. The above link is to listen, the production company and podcast site is here:

https://goodpointepodcasts.com/

The Usborne Legacy

As Yet Unexplained review

Rating –

As Yet Unexplained logo

I first heard of this podcast from Richard Daniels (of The Occultaria Of Albion fame). Unfortunately it wasn’t originally available on every podcatcher and in the interest of fairness, I avoid reviewing such shows. The reason for this is that not everyone has Amazon, or iTunes or Spotify, so I don’t want to review shows that not everyone can enjoy. However it seems that it’s being shared on all apps now, so with great eagerness I subbed and settled down to binge on the whole thing as quickly as possible.

So what’s it about?

This is probably best described as an audio version of the now beloved Usborne books on the unexplained. These were very popular when I was a child and are now experiencing something of a renewed popularity (by people my age, as it goes).

Each episode looks at a different subject. They range from ghosts to UFOs, and from folklore to strange military cover ups from the East and West. There are some very creepy stories here indeed and they are all very well narrated.

Whether intentionally or not, Westley Smith’s narration lends itself to the vintage patina of the show. I can almost imagine him like James Burke on some windswept moor accompanied by a hungry cameraman as he investigates ancient burial chambers, or strange lights in the sky. Also, his voice reminds me of a mix of the character James Hunter from Haunted: An Audio Drama and Jonathan Sims from The Magnus Archives.

Is it any good?

I love this show. The whole thing has a very retro feel. From the logo to the soundtrack, this is a very good pastiche of classic mystery books and shows from my childhood. To be honest, there won’t be any new information here for anyone with an interest in such things, but that really doesn’t matter. Westley Smith does such a good job telling the stories that you almost forget that you know the stories and get sucked into the tales being told. Surely that is a mark of a great orator.

Despite the lack of new information, there are some genuinely creepy moments in the series. The haunting of 50 Berkeley Square will never not be scary, but there are other tales to chill your blood too. The ghosts of Charterhouse, the San Pedro Haunting, and the stories of Russian Cosmonauts drifting off into space are terrifying. The latter especially so, because despite the transmissions being classified, there were people around the world who happened to stumble across them. 

While a show like The Occultaria Of Albion wears its hauntological badge with pride, that show represents a fictional 1970s UK. This is more like the actual late 70s TV shows and books. In the episode on ancient UFO sightings, he’s describing woodcuts that I had studied as a child in my parents’ books on such things. That only reinforces the nostalgia factor, for me at least.

Final thoughts

I really can’t recommend this show highly enough. It’s easy to digest and very well produced. As I mentioned earlier, there aren’t any groundbreaking revelations here, but that’s ok. You can enjoy the show for what it is, and what it is is excellent. Almost immediately, this rose to the top of my favourite podcasts on such subjects.

***NOTE***

I apologise for the constant comparisons to Richard Daniels’ show, but they come as something of a package deal. Indeed, after every episode, that dastardly Richard Daniels manages to inject a subliminal advert for TOoA just to further his own nefarious agenda!

You can get As Yet Unexplained here:

https://asyetunexplained.wixsite.com/home

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Bloody Hell Harold

The Battersea Poltergeist review

Production company – BBC

Rating –

Battersea Poltergeist logo

I know I’ve already reviewed Uncanny, but this was my introduction to the brilliant Danny Robins. It cropped up in the recommendations in BBC sounds and it sounded interesting, so I gave it a go. As soon as the first episode started, I knew this was something special and I knew I was going to love it.

So what’s it about?

Everyone has heard of the film Poltergeist. Fewer people have heard of the real life case of The Enfield Poltergeist. Even fewer have heard of The Battersea Poltergeist. This is unfortunate, the Battersea case was somewhat overshadowed by the more infamous events at Enfield. While Enfield was certainly interesting, Battersea was equally terrifying and equally unexplainable. It was also nearly 20 years before Enfield.

This is probably the reason why it’s almost forgotten. By the 1970s, Britain was paranormal crazy. There were books, TV shows and films all cashing in, but in the post war society of the 50s there was a more pragmatic or sceptical approach to such claims.

In 1956, 15 year old Shirley Hitchings and her family started experiencing strange phenomena that would last an incredible 12 years. I say incredible, because the events at Enfield only lasted a few months. The case starts innocuously enough, as poltergeist cases usually do. Shirley found a silver key on her pillow, one that didn’t fit any locks in the house. Soon the whole family is being constantly terrorised, and the playful nature of the early events is gone.

The spirit (known as Donald) was responsible for moving furniture, throwing things and even starting a fire in the house. As the series progresses, it’s also heavily hinted that it was responsible for the death of Shirley’s Grandmother.

The podcast is a dramatisation of the events in question, interspersed with narration by Danny Robins. It follows the borderline obsessive investigation of the case by Harold Chibbett, played by the incredible Toby Jones. Dafne Keen, who has a long list of credits for someone so young, plays Shirley.

Is it any good?

Anything with Toby Jones is going to be excellent. I don’t think he’s done anything that was sub par. Also, anything by Danny Robins seems to be well worth your time too. As you’ll no doubt remember from my earlier review, I’m something of a fanboy.

Danny Robins actually has boxes of Chibbetts’ original case files and notes, and this is the basis of the series. During the course of the series Danny is holed up in his shed, surrounded by all the papers, and just like Chibbett decades before, the obsession is somewhat contagious. At one point Danny himself complains that his family are missing him due to the time he spends poring over the evidence.

The production values are high enough that you really get an immersive experience, and all the actors are doing an amazing job. The cast features lots of familiar voices, not just Jones’ and there is as much tension here as any good TV show or film. Actually there is more tension here, mainly because there aren’t any good TV shows or films being made. It seems that if you want a genuinely creepy experience nowadays, then you need to look towards podcasts and radio shows.

As well as the horror of the events, there is a real pathos here as well. There are a lot of people living in the house, and all the family members are put under an immense amount of stress. This is also very well portrayed by the cast, as is their suspicion of Harold when he first starts investigating. Poor Harold has to not only figure out exactly how to try and find out about the spirit, but he also has to try and gain the trust of some of the family.

Final thoughts

As with all BBC productions, it’s a joy to listen to. As is the case by now, Danny Robins’ excitement is contagious, as is his disbelief at the phenomena that occur.

If you’re interested in ghost stories, then you’ll love it. There is nothing not to like here. This is a great investigation into a little known (or rather, little known when this was originally released) case of poltergeist activity.

You can get The Battersea Poltergeist here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0940193

Or wherever you get your podcasts

Deadlines, deadlines

A bit of a change this week. As you read this, I will be on holiday, braving the elements with no wifi or phone signal. I had originally planned to get a review written and scheduled for Sunday as usual. The deadline arrived rather quicker than expected and despite my best efforts I couldn’t get it finished. When I started this blog I had planned to keep at least one finished review ready to go for a situation such as this, but I used those up too. C’est la vie.

Normal service will be resumed next Sunday with my review of The Battersea Poltergeist by Danny Robins and the BBC. Im sure that both of my regular subscribers will be ok with that!

Until then, wish me luck trying to keep two kids (who spend more time online than Neo and Morpheus combined) entertained with frisbees, fishing rods and UNO.

See you next week.

Camping Holiday
The key to survival is being able to fashion a shelter at a moments notice

Lost Dreams

Lost Hills Review

Production Company – Pushkin Industries

Rating –

Lost Hills logo

This is a rather awkward series to rate. Hopefully during the course of this review I’ll clarify my decision for the rather low score you see at the top of the post, particularly if you’ve just started listening to this series before reading this. As with most podcasts, I’ll hear a trailer on a different series and decide to check it out. This one caught my eye (ears?) with its exciting and harrowing plot. I subscribed immediately.

So what’s it about?

Lost hills is a true crime podcast. Each series follows a different case, but the locale is similar. In the case of this series, it’s sunny Malibu in California.

Series 1 follows the case of a shooting at a campsite in Malibu Creek State Park. Campers are awoken in the middle of the night to loud gunshots. A father has been shot in his tent as he slept next to his young daughters. The children were unharmed. The police arrest Anthony Rauda, a man already known to the police, and something of a loner and a recluse who lived in the woods. As the investigation gains publicity, it soon becomes known that there had been attempted shootings going on for months beforehand. Were they connected? Did they get the right man, or was he a scapegoat?

This is a long and complex case with severe failings on the side of law enforcement. There will be parts of the story that will have you literally shaking your head in disbelief at the failings to protect the public. I also can’t help but notice the spirit of Making A Murderer early on in the series. It seems to be weighted in favour of innocence, at least early on.

Series 2 follows the case of a tragedy at sea. Fred Roehler, his wife Verna, and their young son Doug were yachting off the Malibu coast when the boat capsized and Verna and Doug lost their lives. Fred was the only survivor and only witness. At first, he’s devastated. He’s lost most of his family in a tragic accident.

As the investigation develops though, skeletons from Fred’s past start to surface. Death seems to follow him around, particularly with regards to wives. Is he the charming, loving husband that everyone thinks? Or is there a darker side. One that’s hidden from the public?

Something that becomes apparent, particularly in season two, is that despite the multi million pound houses and exclusivity of Malibu now, in the 1970s it was a somewhat seedy area. Its popularity with celebrities came from its anonymity and peace. Somewhere away from paparazzi and prying eyes.

Is it any good?

Yes and no. This is the reason for my low score. The first series was brilliant. A gripping story and real emotion. It was a harrowing story that would be any parent’s nightmare. When you couple that with the history of the area and the fact that nobody seemed to do anything to get to the root of the problem before things escalated, makes for a brilliant show.

When series two started I was expecting more of the same, but I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an interesting case, and there is no doubt that Fred was a seriously nasty guy, but it didn’t resonate as much as the first series. Even interviews with the ever charming Rob Lowe couldnt save it.

Final thoughts

Pushkin Industries is to factual podcasts what Rusty Quill is to fictional ones. Revisionist History is their flagship show and will be getting a review soon, there are others too that are all outstanding. This one started well enough, but I feel the second series was not quite up to the usual standard of excellence. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m writing the review, so it is what it is.

If they had left it as a one off, then it would have easily been a four or five brain show. I had to knock some off for series two though. No doubt there are plenty of incredible, dark stories from this area and era. Rob Lowe even discussed some things that could make for interesting story threads. Will there be a season three? Will it be a return to form? We shall just have to wait and see.

You can get Lost Hills here:

https://www.pushkin.fm/podcasts/lost-hills

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

In the Chambers of Lovecraft

Malevolent review

Production company – Rusty Quill

Rating –

Malevolent logo

Malevolent is a podcast whose reputation preceded it. I had heard good things from lots of places. Indeed, this review being written now is due to a Twitter thread where it was being widely praised. I figured I must have missed something. I’d listened to four episodes and, in the words of Shania Twain, it didn’t impress me much. So had I written it off too soon, or was I right in my hasty assumption? Read on and I’ll tell you.

So what’s it about?

Malevolent is a horror podcast that flies its Lovecraft flag with pride. The story follows Arkham P.I Arthur Lester who wakes up in his office with no memory of recent events and is unable to see. He can hear a mysterious voice though that appears to be coming from inside his head. This voice guides him, and so begins the adventure to discover not only what happened to Arthur, but what happened to “the voice” as well. This unlikely duo navigate as best they can to solve the mystery, without running afoul of the numerous enemies they encounter.

Speaking of enemies, there are plenty on display here. From distrustful police officers, spooky cultists and the more eldritch horrors of Lovecraft and Chambers, there are plenty of antagonists to try and hinder Arthur on his mission. It’s always fun to try and identify the creatures from the descriptions, playing a kind of mythos “Guess Who”

Is it any good?

Put it this way. It isn’t as bad as I first thought. I had let a few things colour my judgement, and I suspect I was being a bit fussy.

The voice acting is good, although the phase effect on “the voice” will never not be irritating. Even more impressive is that the whole thing is written, directed and performed by Harlan Guthrie. I was surprised at this because while there is obviously a limited cast I wouldn’t have guessed it was a solo effort. For the most part his accents and characterisations are spot on.

Likewise, the production values are reassuringly high. The sound effects are very good and help build tension well. The monster effects are excellent too. They sound original and exactly how I’d imagine an eldritch horror to sound, and the gurgling gore sounds are deliciously disgusting.

One of the things that first threw me (and still does), is that this is a cross between a written story and some kind of improvised roleplaying game. There are definitely points in the story where you can hear dice being rolled before clues or items get discovered.

***NOTE*** On looking at the website, it turns out that the patreon supporters got to vote on the outcome of the original shorter episodes. These got compiled into the longer ones that are released as the podcast.

It is almost literally like an RPG. Because Arthur can’t see, the voice is his eyes and has to describe the surroundings in the manner of a Games Master. This makes it seem like a cross between Call Of Cthulhu and vintage kids TV show Knightmare.

Final thoughts

Based on the first four episodes I had decided it was a one or two brain podcast. Against my better judgement, and some (imagined) peer pressure on Twitter, I have given it another go.

I’m still not too sure what the point is with having the disembodied voice other than to act as a vehicle for the “interactive” side of the concept. I wonder if it would have been as effective to just have a mysterious person be in the room when Arthur woke up. The main plot points would still have worked just fine with minimal work.  I’m sorry but I think there would have been a better effect than that weird phasing to give the impression of being in Arthur’s head.

Apart from the dice rolling aspect of this series, what ultimately held this back from getting a five brain score was the fact I didnt really like the main character much at all. Over the course of the series, he’s undergone great hardship and stress, and ultimately it bothered me not one bit. When Jonathan Sims realised his situation towards the end of his story, in fact anyone in T.M.A. it was genuinely emotional. Im not sure why, but there certainly were moments when I wished that Arthur would learn some respect for the things he was dealing with. Maybe its “character development”, but the way he starts to act , despite what he knows and has experienced should have had serious repercussions.

Despite my misgivings, and my own little “voice” saying to score it really low, I have to say that I’ve grown to like this series a lot. I could have binged the whole lot in two days, and the big twists make up for the things that I dislike. I still don’t feel that it’s a proper five brain show, but it has just squeaked into a four.

I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong.

You can get Malevolent here:

https://www.malevolent.ca/episodes/

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

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