I made a list not too long ago of my top ten video game soundtracks. I missed one. I missed a major one. I was so busy concentrating on newer games that I forgot one of my absolute favorites from my childhood. Legend of Dragoon is a brilliant RPG in a similar vein as Final Fantasy that revolves around a war between humans, a race called the Winglies, and, well, dragons. Think Game of Thrones: Young Adult edition. Though the game did deal with some pretty dark material here and there, it fast became a cult favorite for thousands. Its characters, story, and music have stayed with me for years. Occasionally, I’ll break it out and play it on the PS3 just to relive the adventures of Dart, Shana, Albert, Rose and the others.
I love a band that can inspire me no matter what genre I’m writing. Presently, I’ve found my mind leaping across three different writing projects in the last few weeks, trying to get work done on all of them and not go crazy at the same time. Between doing that, working full-time, and writing weekly blog posts…well…let’s just say I like to stay busy. alt-J has provided numerous opportunities to immerse myself in the story, no matter what the genre, and to get right down to business. This has been the case with a certain travel comedy sequel I’ve been planning (you’ll know the one), a short story directly linked to my latest book “Memento Mori” and my coup-de-grace of projects, my untitled apocalyptic novel. There is something undefined about alt-J’s style. Certainly one could imagine blazing across the country in a car, the wind in your hair from the open window as “Left Hand Free” blasts, or trekking along a deserted road in the wake of a catastrophe to “Hunger of the Pine”. That’s how amazing and diverse their music is and why I’ve been listening to them so much. Today, I’m going to share with you a few of their songs and describe what I see when I listen to them. Enjoy!
I have fond memories of playing the PSOne console. It was a video game system that my brother and I shared and it was housed up in the attic of our house. The attic wasn’t creepy and dark like most would assume. The sewing machine was up there, with a couple beds, my mom’s craft things, and the old Performa Apple computer. There would sometimes be daddy long legs scaling the sloped ceilings and sometimes you would have to curl up in a blanket in the winter months when you sat down to play a game. My favorite memory of playing Rayman 2 is with a hot cup of peach tea on a sunny afternoon. I let the sun and the tea warm me and played through the adventures of limbless Rayman, trying to defeat robot pirates as they took over his world, all to the sound of a diverse and playful soundtrack. I eventually sold the game in favor of another one (can’t remember which) and continued on. But that memory stayed with me: the sun, the tea, and the music from that game. I eventually tracked it down and bought it again and every once in a while, give myself a refresher of the environments and the fun tunes that accompanied this game.
It’s been several months since I’ve done a proper update blog, so I wanted to just sit down, listen to my Haddaway, and give you all an idea of everything going on now. Yes… I’m listening to 80’s music. Don’t judge.
BRAND NEW WEBSITE! Yes, if you haven’t been over to the website in a while, go check it out. I’ve changed the domain name back to www.monstrumchronicles.com and have simplified the layout. It looks cleaner, it’s easier to find information, and it looks much more professional. I’m pretty satisfied with it. I’d still like to get a character page up for some of the main characters in The Monstrum Chronicles but that may take a little while.
This is not the first time I’ve done a dance with Tomb Raider music before on this blog. Earlier, I talked about how much the soundtrack to “Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness” (composed by Peter Connelly and Martin Iveson) had inspired several scenes for my latest book in The Monstrum Chronicles and earlier projects (including an earlier version of Night Time, Dotted Line when it was a thriller and not a comedy.) Admittedly, the Tomb Raider series is one of my favorites from my childhood, especially the first two games. When I discovered I could play the games in the CD player and listen to all of the different musical tracks, I was beyond excited. I was writing a fantasy novel about cats at the time (NOT the vampire/cat book…Ugh) and listened to these songs as inspiration. Losing myself in a song allows me to imagine places that don’t seem to be of earthly creation. It’s easier to create a place that is more sinister, or magical, or mysterious if there is a distraction from my everyday surroundings. At the time, that was being bullied at school and listening to my brother practice his trumpet. (Sorry, bro.)
I cannot say enough good things about this game. It’s just…kind of perfect. The artwork is phenomenal, the atmosphere is grim and depressing, the characters multi-faceted and intriguing, the plot easy to follow and engaging, and the music…is absolutely divine!
While Tormentum: Dark Sorrow isn’t strictly in the horror genre, it does have some dark fantasy elements to it and definitely features some horrifying plot-points and imagery. It tells the story of a nameless protagonist who finds himself caged by an empire set on making people suffer for the sins they’ve committed, often through gruesome torture. The protagonist doesn’t remember what he’s done, nor does he remember his life before being captured. In addition to seeking an escape from his captors, he seeks to understand what led him down this dark road, often encountering tests of his morality along the way.
A couple years ago, I was introduced to a short animated film called Varmints. This 24 minute film covers themes of deforestation and urbanization in a touching and inspiring narrative. While I was impressed with the film, its music, composed by Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson, was what I truly enjoyed about it. The kind of music that is subtle and dark and lovely in its composition because it’s not trying too hard to be noticed. It complimented the imagery on screen and hinted at the darker themes that the film was highlighting. I kept an eye on his other projects and was excited to see that he composed for the film, “Prisoners”, a thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman. Both protagonists in their pursuit for justice and understanding, begin to slide down a blurring path or morality and find themselves doing things they never thought they’d be capable of. As of late, Johannsson has won a Golden Globe Award for his work on the Stephen Hawking biopic, “The Theory of Everything”.
Just a couple weeks ago, I introduced you folks to a “How to Write Horror” Wiki that had some rather generalized ideas about writing the genre. Most tried to make it sound as easy as riding a bike. On top of the “you just need to do this, this, and this” trope, it was clearly written by someone with a misguided sense of writing in general. Need I remind you of the “don’t forget the details” line…
This week, continuing with our instructional foray into the world of horror writing, I stumbled across this Instructables page about how to write horror. This one blows the other one out of the water. Not only are the ideas cliched, there are places where the writer either forgot which word to use or used spell-check and didn’t re-read their stunning how-to masterpiece. Case in point: a line that says “…a person despaired and appeared again…” So, the person went into a massive sob-fest causing them to go invisible, and then they reappeared, good as new?
I decided to switch up our Horror-FAIL Friday blog to now include the occasional Horror-FAVE Friday, a collection of film, books, and video games that I felt did a superb job of fitting into the horror genre, even redefining it in some cases.
A couple years ago, while browsing along on youtube (as several of us do in our boredom), I ran across the first part for this dark narrative game called “The Cat Lady”. The art style was funky and the concept dark and fairly depressing. The further along I watched the more I became engaged in the protagonist’s endeavor to figure out what kind of world she was in. The Cat Lady tells the story of Susan Ashworth, who, unable to live after a heart-wrenching tragedy decides to end her life. Except she doesn’t die. She awakens in a strange world, inhabited by dead doppelgangers of herself and a creature disguising itself in the skin of an old woman that calls itself “The Queen of Maggots.” It soon becomes clear to Susan that the only way she can leave is by accepting a deal from this Queen; root out evil in the real world by searching for the Parasites, individuals with extreme darkness in their hearts.
I was blown away not only by the story, but by the characterization, music, and art style of this game. It has become one of my favorite examples in the horror genre by far. As visual and interactive media, it’s one of my favorite games that I’ve encountered in recent years. Now, I wish there was a book version.
Here, you can watch Youtube Let’s Player HarshlyCritical play through The Cat Lady.
Interested in picking it up for yourself? Hop on over to the official website from Screen 7 and Harvester Games.
Mr. Burt Bacharach said it best: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” And that was my intention last week on Valentine’s Day when I made a pink-frosted chocolate cake for a good friend and co-worker of mine (as it happened to be his birthday the same day). It seems as though this week, I’ve seen several examples of bullying, hatred in the media, and an all around depression because of our never-ending winter here in New England. And then, there is that little bit of depression that the single people of the world (including myself) often get on Valentine’s Day. In short, last weekend, everyone was desperate for sunshine, for laughter, for smiles, and for friends.
It can be hard to look past the desire for companionship when you feel lonely in order to realize that there are people in your life who matter, who you care about and who care about you. Basically, without descending too deeply into preaching, look at what you have today, the good and the bad and appreciate it for what it is.
Today, I’m telling you to make a cake. Make it for someone you care about, make it for someone who might need it, make it for yourself if you are feeling low and need just a little break. Make that cake and enjoy the act of making it. Put on your favorite song and rock out in the kitchen. Because…being happy is what matters. And if you’re making cake, how can you not feel good?