Tag: Vampires

Keeping me in the loop

***RELEASE DAY REVIEW***

The Lesser Dead review

Production company – Echoverse

Rating –

The Lesser Dead logo

I know, another weird day for a post. I couldn’t pass on another opportunity for an early listen of a new podcast though (despite my misgivings). So here we are. It’s a Friday and you’ve just noticed the little icon on your browser, or had your phone make a noise. Maybe you forgot it was Friday, and thought it was Sunday. Maybe not.

I mentioned I had misgivings with this show, and that’s because it’s about vampires. I’m sorry, but vampires make me cringe. They aren’t scary (not since Max Schreck anyway), and the current penchant for sparkly, emo, monobrowed heartthrobs (or was that the werewolf?) grinds my gears. But here we are. I’m reviewing a podcast about vampires. So is it any good? Well read on and I’ll tell you.

So what’s it about?

The Lesser Dead is set in 1978, a year dear to my heart. You see, that was the year I left the warm sanctuary of my mother’s womb and arrived kicking, screaming, and hairy into this cruel world. It’s also set in New York. This is not dear to my heart, seeing as I’ve never been there, but I digress.

Joseph “Joey” Peacock is a 19 year old vampire. As part of the community of vampires called The Family, living in “The Loops”, an area of unlit tunnels off the main subway. He gets tasked somewhat reluctantly by Margaret, The Mayor of The Loops, to find someone who has been “peeling” people (vampire slang for killing victims). You may think that vampires are supposed to kill people. In this universe, they use people more like drink dispensers. I guess there’s less hassle if you keep your victims alive.

As Joseph and his friends start searching for the killer, he also discovers that someone has been turning children into vampires, an unspoken rule that should never be broken (Vampire children are always creepy). So with his friends, he sets off to uncover just who is doing these unspeakable things.

Is it any good?

Surprisingly, yes. I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. There is none of the usual clich├ęs that are so beloved of this particular branch of horror recently. 

Jack Kilmer as Joseph is somewhere between a young Henry Hill in Goodfellas, and Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale in Catch Me If You Can. He has that youthful charm and exuberance that verges on being cocky, yet stays just the right side of annoying. You know that every word that comes out of his mouth is delivered with a smirk.

Minnie Driver as Margaret is also well played, and a perfect “Yang” to Joseph’s “Yin”. Her no bullshit, foul mouthed Irish firebrand attitude seems like quite the departure from her usual oeuvre (not that I’m really up on her body of work). But she rules The Family with an iron fist, or to be pedantic, an iron spade. She is all too aware of the trouble that this rogue “peeler” will bring to The Family, so is keen to end this mess and return to anonymity asap.

The supporting characters are very good too, from the older and wiser Cvetko played by Saul Rubinek, to Margaret’s spooky henchmen Oldboy and Ruth. Mysterious kingpin The Hessian, played by Danny Huston is also a good brooding presence in the few episodes he appears in.

I can’t really pick holes in this series at all. The acting is top notch, the sound design is great, and the story is brilliantly written and engaging. And not to go too far along and spoil anything, but the series ends EXACTLY how I like.

I love the music too, from the weird reimagining of “Rapture” by Blondie at the end of episode 1, to the timeless Disco Inferno by The Trammps in Studio 54. There’s also a melody that reminds me of Hushabye Mountain from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in parts that adds to the dreamy atmosphere of the vampire’s night world. I’m surprised though, that there is so little music in the series. For it to be set in New York in 1978, disco and punk at their height, and the birth of hip hop, I feel that there could have been a bit more made of this without detracting from the scene setting.

Final thoughts

If you’re a fan of modern vampire fiction then you’ll absolutely love this. Vampire stories tend to be very trope led, which is why I don’t like them, however this is a nice change. It’s part gangland thriller, and part murder mystery. Even if you are somewhat cynical of the genre, then I’d still encourage you to give it a go. It really is a brilliant show.

Has this changed my opinion on vampire stories? No, not really. Although it has made me think about not being quite so judgemental about new podcasts, so there is that. I was going to give it a four out of five rating, just because of the vampire aspect, but I can’t. It’s a five brain podcast all day (or rather, all night) long, and one of my favourite fiction podcasts of the last 12 months. I never thought I’d say that.

Again, thank you to GreatPods and Echoverse for giving me the opportunity to get the whole lot in advance for this review. I really do feel like a professional blogger now! (You were right Imran!)

You can get The Lesser Dead here:

https://wondery.com/shows/the-lesser-dead/

Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Creature Feature

The Byron Chronicles review

Rating –

The Byron Chronicles Logo

In life there are a few names that guarantee quality, whether it be electrical goods, cars or clothes. In the podcast world, one of those names is David Ault. I think the first time I heard him was probably on the Shadows At the Door Podcast, but I was soon hearing him showing up in The Magnus Archives, A Scottish Podcast and many others. I would have bet anything that a podcast featuring his voice talents would be well worth a listen. Until this one*.

This particular podcast started an incredible SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO! For some reason it had completely passed me by, until I heard one of the other shows I subscribe to do a collaboration episode with this one. I subscribed as soon as I heard the dry humour and deadpan delivery of Mr Ault, and at the first opportunity pressed play and waited to be entertained.

So what’s it about?

The titular Byron, aka “The Pale Man Of Portland” (voiced by Ault) is nothing if not an enigma. He is an ancient being of indeterminate origin, and indeterminate motives. The pilot episode, strangely enough not featuring Ault as Byron, sees him being contacted by Lucifer and the archangel Gabriel to capture the daughter of God and The Devil.

Here comes the first hole in the story. Byron is literally centuries old, and used to communing with all manner of supernatural and spiritual beings. I find it remarkable that he gets surprised at the concept that God can be either male or female as it sees fit (in this case to give birth to a daughter).

Maybe I should write the pilot off as teething troubles. After all, it must have been popular enough for them to make more episodes right?

Each series is about ten episodes, which covers four separate stories. Each story sees Byron and his sidekick, again called Sparrow (what is it with plucky female sidekicks called Sparrow?) Encounter a different supernatural being, from the aforementioned angels and demons, zombies, werewolves and vampires.

***SLIGHT SPOILER***

Their take on Father Christmas was brilliant, and a really good way to end series 1.

Is it any good?

Yes and no. After listening to the pilot episode I very nearly wrote it off. It really wasn’t very good at all. While the story was interesting enough, the acting was poor (check out the bartender in the pilot episode for a prime example).

The first proper episode showed more promise. Now we have David Ault as Byron and this time he gets kidnapped by a shady Vatican group to capture the original zombie. None other than Lazarus himself. This episode sets the style from here on out, Byron tasked to battle some supernatural foe, and reluctantly doing his duty with all the deadpan humour of someone who has seen (and engineered) civilisations to rise and fall.

Final thoughts

It reminds me of a cross between Doctor Who (a lot) crossed with the comic book character Constantine but written by Neil Gaiman. If you’re a sarcastic and cynical old sod (like I am), and you enjoy listening to sarcastic and cynical antiheroes, then despite the generally poor voice acting from 50% of the cast, then you’ll love this. As in Wormwood, it is possible to overlook the flaws and enjoy the series.

Do not take this as an admission that it is a fantastic series. It isn’t. There have been times that I have wanted to turn it off and forget all about it. Thankfully I have the patience of a saint, so I gave it the benefit of the doubt.

You may have guessed that I wrote this as I was listening to it. I’ve listened to the whole first series in a day, plus the Christmas special. Despite having a serious aversion to stories that deal with werewolves, vampires and talking dragons, I am interested to see where series two goes. I could have written this review after listening to every episode, but would anyone else have the patience to slog through many mediocre episodes to get to the good ones? 

Ultimately I gave this a four brain rating, but honestly, two and a half of those were just for David Ault being in it.

*I reserve the the right to eat my words at any time!

You can get The Byron Chronicles here:

https://ericbusbypresents.com/category/the-byron-chronicles/

Or wherever you get your podcasts

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