The House That Bled to Death kicks off strong and stays strong throughout its 50 minutes. It keeps a sustained anxiousness until it’s very final scenes.
What is ‘The house that bled to death about?
The darkest and coldest opening of the series so far. An elderly couple are together in the kitchen about to have a cup of warm milk before bed. The husband heats the milk and slips a dark powder into one of the cups. As he sits there and lets his wife drink the tainted milk, not a word is exchanged. We have no idea as to why he is murdering his wife and in the world of Hammer House of Horror it doesn’t really matter.
Fast forward some time ahead and we are with this episode’s family, the Peters family. They are buying the very same house where the murder occurred, unknowing to them, from one of the creepiest estate agents in a TV series ever. As soon as they begin moving in, strange things start happening – doors jamming, strange visions and the most gruesome death of an animal I’ve seen in the series thus far.
As they try to bare the strange goings on in the house, tensions are increased both within the family and with the neighbours and friends. The poltergeist-like happenings culminate with the most shocking child’s Birthday party I’ve ever seen. But just when you think it’s all over, we see one of the most interesting – in my opinion – closing scenes of an episode of Hammer House of Horror I’ve watched.
I wonder about the child actors
Every time I see these sorts of series or films I can’t help but wonder how the children are affected. I mean, obviously if there’s a dead body the child wouldn’t necessarily need to physically see it. Through the magic of editing this effect can be produced. But when you have a scene such as this episode’s Birthday party, where the children are directly affected, this must be an awkward conversation with the young actors’ parents.
Nonetheless the child actors do a really good job in this episode. Their terror is almost palpable – which is worrying on a couple of levels. Sometimes I find the younger actors more convincing than their superiors. This could simply be down to the fact that children, in their very nature, are innocent. So the horrors that befall them are that much more horrific.
Definitely one of the strongest and most memorable episodes of the Hammer House of Horror TV series. The House That Bled To Death has everything you could want from a hammer horror series.
The feeling of claustrophobia is maintained throughout most of the episode from being limited to the interior of their house. The house too is not a house that would necessarily stand out. You would see many houses like it passing through most built up city suburbs. This in itself is scary. The fact that it isn’t some huge eerie castle or dark, set-back mansion. This is a regular house, for regular families, who have to endure some far-from-regular thungs.
When it comes to UK rap music, few are revered in quite the same way as Kano is. Present in the Grime scene from the early days, he has had five studio albums to date. Made in the Manor is his latest and stands up, hands down, as one of the best rap albums I’ve heard.
This is definitely an album that has grown on me over time. The opening songs grabbed me instantly but the later, more introspective, songs took a bit longer to get their hooks in me. But now that they have, they get better and better with every listen.
Welcome to the jungle
The opening of ‘Hail’ – the album’s first song – is sharp, loud and aggressive. This whole song is unrelenting throughout and Kano’s delivery is right up in your face forcing you to stand up and listen. The chainsaw melody that carries us along is later joined by the best sample i’ve heard for a long time. The sample is of Tempz, from his track ‘Next Hype’:
(CLEAR!) All of your CD rack
Won’t get none of your CD’s back
— Next Hype, Tempz.
Some manner of respite comes with the next song, ‘T-shirt Weather in the Manor’, which brings with it a calm piano melody and light drumming. Kano’s vocals are no less commanding on this song with the lighter accompaniment.
‘New Banger’ and ‘Three Wheel Ups’ bring that in-your-face energy back in spades with some great featured rappers. Giggs and Wiley both feature on ‘Three Wheel Ups’ and do an excellent job of supporting Kano. Even D Double E can be heard in parts doing his signature “ooooh”.
‘This is England’ was the song that made me first sit up and take a closer look at this album. The various layers and production on this song made me realise that this album was something special. Like Charlie Sloth said in Kano’s 1 extra, this feels like a seminal record.
All in the family
There were two songs that stood out to me for just how personal and confessional they sounded. ‘Little Sis’ and ‘Strangers’ feel like personal monologues directed to a sister and brother respectively. Although these songs initially didn’t grab me as his big tunes did, I have since come to enjoy them both in a whole different way.
When I first got into Kano all I wanted to hear were his big tunes – they are so addictive. But now that I’m in the habit of listening to Made In The Manor front to back, these more personal songs fit perfectly with the overall flow.
From the family you’re born with to the one you choose : all of the guest features on this album feel like they are done from a place of love. What I mean is, I imagine many rappers feature on other artists’ tracks for the chance of exposure. I could be wrong about that but it does make sense. On Made in the Manor, however, each feature feels like it is Kano and his close friends, who are just making great music together.
Whether you think you are a fan of rap or not, I urge you to listen to Made In The Manor regardless. There is so much variety in this album that I truly believe there is something for everyone. He delivers the fast-paced heavy hitters with a great level of confidence and Authority. And he delivers the more introspective songs with an honest sincerity.
Don’t be a statistic blaming ghetto physics for holding you back.
— a great line from the song ‘Seashells in the East’
Along with others like JME, Akala, and Devlin, Kano is up there as one of my favourite rappers. Like those others, Kano’s sense of humour comes through in both his lyrics and his unique delivery.
He never rests on his laurels either. He could have easily delivered an hour of quick-witted, fast bars throughout and fans would have been very happy. But with Made in the Manor he has pushed himself further, whilst looking deeper within. As a result, Kano has come out the other end with a true masterpiece of an album. Not just in rap, but in all music.
The Midnight are a two-piece synthwave band consisting of songwriter Tyler Lyle and producer Tim McEwan. They are from the American deep south and Denmark respectively. However, they now both live in Los Angeles and make some of the coolest music of the past few years.
They are well respected, often revered, within the Synthwave community. Their music is awash with eighties retro sensibilities and an innate ability to bring back the parts of that era we often see through rose-tinted glasses.
Nocturnal by The Midnight
Nocturnal is the third full album release by The Midnight and is as strong an album as I have come to expect from them.
We open the album with footsteps on a rainy Los Angeles street. The sirens in the background and the initial synth pads that swoon in gave me similar feels to Sarah Connor before ducking into the Tech Noir. I wasn’t to know just how close to the Terminator we were going to come with this album – more on this in a moment. This first song, ‘Shadows’, is a steady beat and synth driven tune that soon showcases singer Tyler Lyle’s awesome, almost vulnerable feeling, vocals. And you best believe there is a little bit of Saxophone sprinkled in there too. This song brings you straight into the era they are shooting for with style.
It was great to hear Nikki Flores’ return after her previous collaboration with The Midnight on the previous album’s hit ‘Jason’. This time she takes the microphone for ‘Light Years’, her voice pairing perfectly with Tyler’s. Meanwhile on ‘River of Darkness’, we are treating to a different kind of collaboration. Fellow Synthwave artist Timecop1983 helps out in the production of ‘River of Darkness’, creating a stunning mid section to the album.
Inspired by the greatest
‘Crystalline’ is most definitely one of the stand-out songs for me on this album. It was also the first single to be shown off from Nocturnal. The vocals continue with their dreamlike delivery as we are led into what can only be described as a head nod towards Phil Collins. The drum fill that thrusts us into the wailing Saxophone solo, sounds wonderfully inspired by those infamous beats from ‘In The Air Tonight’.
The title track on this album feels like a love letter to Brad Fiedel – the composer from the Terminator. The song begins so close to one of the most iconic film themes ever written. The iconic theme I speak of is the main theme from the Terminator. Again, as with the Phil Collins flavours on Crystalline, these Terminator-esque beats are merely a jumping off point. The song soon blossoms into its own deep synth bass/beat driven beast. Noctural also featured synthesizer sounds that sounded identical to ones used in the film.
These inspirations seem to come from a place of deep love and respect for the era and the artists. As opposed to simply being a popular retro vehicle for them to write on. It’s the delicate touches throughout this album that put it in the upper circle.
Even though Synthwave is one of my favourite musical genres, I don’t tend to write about it that often. This is only due to the fact that I think I’d end up repeating myself with most albums and artists. Most I’ve heard have been great, but there are those special few that warrant the time it takes. FM-84 are one such band, The Midnight are another.
Not once was I awoken from their retro spell during this album. When listening, you will be transported to an idealistic moment of the eighties – if you allow yourself. A moment pieced together from your own memories of films and tv shows of the time. Those memories then bound together with the beautiful music from Nocturnal by The Midnight.
We open the episode to see a small boy looking around a laboratory at the different coloured powders on the shelf. He then proceeds to eat one of the powders, which immediately sends him into a trance-like fit before dying on the grass outside. His parents run out after hearing breaking glass only to find their son, William, dead in the garden.
After the tragic opening we move to some time in the near future, the length of which is never revealed. The mother is picking up her newly-adopted son, a very polite – and slightly odd – young boy. After a near-fatal accident on the way home, the boy starts to become integrated into the family.
However, something just doesn’t sit right with the parents Terence and Laurie – something about their new son just isn’t right. After an increasing number of strange, and graphically horrific, occurrences happen around the home and the father’s lab, the story ends on a darkly melancholic note.
Put the bunny back in the box
I find that any horror that is being told is almost always amplified when children are involved. Whether that involves the child as being either the victim or the perpetrator. Take the rabbit killing scene for example: if an adult breaks the neck of a rabbit on screen, yes it is horrible. However, put that action into the hands of a small child, whether possessed or not, and the violence takes on a whole new angle.
Hammer House of Horror was going places and trying things that other shows at the time just weren’t doing. At least that’s what I believe based on my limited research. We can see parallels with modern anthology series like Black Mirror and Inside No 9, which themselves are doing things others just aren’t. Both of these no doubt took some of their cues from this TV series.
Although this episode was a bit of a slow burn for me, there was still enough to enjoy it as a whole. I thought the child actor at the time, Matthew Blakstad who played adopted son James, was suitable creepy. But from all of the reviews / critiques I’ve read of this episode, all mention him as being an evil boy. Although that was the impression I had from the start, I didn’t feel that by the end. Instead, I believe him to be a sheltered boy who unwittingly becomes possessed by the late Willam.
This episode is definitely the weakest of the first three i have watched so far. Although it did have a few redeeming qualities for me. You wouldn’t be missing too much if you bypassed this episode. But, for any of you fans of the Hammer House of Horror series, you should find enough interest to warrant 50 minutes of your time.
Battle Royale refers to a particular style of game where every player is trying to kill all other players. It is a last person standing all-out war. Typically, all players will land on different places across a large island and hurry to find weapons and survive longer than all other players.
Battle Royale style games have become popular recently with H1Z1 and more recently Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. And now we have Fortnite Battle Royale, which has enough of its own unique selling points to warrant it being accepted amongst the others.
What makes Fortnite Battle Royale stand out amongst similar games?
Firstly, pretty much the whole of the map is destructible, except for the ground you walk on. You start each game with a huge pickaxe, with which you are able to break things down to their base parts. For example, buildings and trees can be chopped away into blocks of wood, walls can be smashed into bricks, and storage containers can be broken into metal. But what to do with these materials? Well, that leads me on to my next unique point.
Anywhere across the island, you are able to use any building materials you gather to build your own structures. These structures can give you an edge in a firefight, shielding you from enemy fire. They can also help you get up to higher places, such as building lofts, where higher grade weapons could be hiding.
A welcome difference for me with this game was its ease of learning. All weapons that are scattered across the map are standalone, meaning you don’t need to faff around finding addons. The weapons increase in power as their colours go from weakest to strongest: Gray, Green, Blue, Purple and Orange. So if you spot a weapon that is a higher grade color to your own, grab it! Also there is no scavenging for different tiers of armour – you can find armour potions that will give extra protection once drank, but that’s about it.
Fortnite looks beautiful
Fortnite is such an attractive game to watch. It’s bubbly, colourful characters and surroundings act as a gorgeous veneer to hide what is still a brutal and intense game. When I first saw its visual style I couldn’t help but think that Disney had made a game.
All of the locations are gorgeous to walk around and explore too. The areas aren’t too big or too small, they feel just right with a comfortable distance between them. From the dark and gloomy ‘Wailing Woods’ to the open space ‘Loot Lake’ in the centre of the map, each area has it’s own feel to it. My personal favourite is the ‘Lonely Lodge’ on the east coast and its nearby watch tower – a great sniping position.
Everything down to the finer details impressed me in this game. Like even how the health points pop up on an enemy to display how much damage you’ve done. Or the animations when someone is killed and their loot bounces out of them. It’s just all so playful and fun.
Anatomy of each game
Once the game’s home screen is loaded up, it has been taking me an average of around thirty seconds to a minute to begin a match. Sometimes even quicker. After the few moments in the holding area while the server fills with players, you are immediately taken to the hot-air balloon powered battle bus over the island. This flying bus is everyone’s starting position as it flies over the battleground island from one side to the other. At any point whilst going over the island you are able to jump out and free-fall down to the surface.
Once you land on the surface you must first find a weapon to defend yourself with. Weapons come in a variety of classes, which are grouped together by colour. Not only weapons, but you can also collect armour potions, traps and medikits for self-healing. But that’s about it. One of the beauties of this game, as mentioned before, is it’s simplicity. It makes the whole concept of surviving really enjoyable.
After a few moments of landing on the ground, a white circle appears on the game map to designate the next safe zone. You then have three minutes to get within that zone as the deep purple, violent storm approaches. If you remain in the storm clouds they will quickly zap down your health and you will soon die. The deadly storm continues to push all surviving players into the same ever-decreasing safe zone until there is only one player left standing.
Fortnite is a super fun and addictive game to play. Each match is pretty quick, lasting a maximum of around fifteen minutes (if you last until the final few). This was also a lot more simple for me to get up to speed with than other Battle Royale games.
This game makes for a very enjoyable and attractive experience of survival. Fortnite Battle Royale is no less intense than similar games of its kind but in my honest opinion, its the one that is the most fun.
Here’s some of my own recorded gameplay to give you an idea of how it looks and feels:
I am a huge fan of both Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman. Their music, whether separate or in collaboration, has a special place in my heart. From the Bat albums to Welcome to the Neighbourhood; from Bad Attitude to Blind before I stop. Although the Steinman-penned albums are in a league of their own, I still enjoy Meat Loaf in his own right throughout his career.
Apparently there is a photograph somewhere of me singing along to Bat out of Hell when I was about four years old. In the photo I am seen sporting my own red hanky as seen in the music video. Rocking from an early age!
I am ashamed to admit that it has taken me a year from its release to actually listen to ‘Braver than we are’ in full. The reason for this is because on first hearing the album’s opener, ‘Who needs the young’, it just didn’t have that unique aesthetic I was expecting. After revisiting Steinman’s only solo album, ‘Bad for Good’ recently, I also decided to give this album another try – and I’m so glad I did. I didn’t give this album the time it deserved right off the bat (no pun intended).
I now present my thoughts on the album.
Braver than we are
Meat Loaf has had full collaboration with Jim Steinman on four of his thirteen albums to date. The first, and most famous was Bat out of Hell from 1977. The album ‘Deadringer’ following in 1981 and is so underrated if you ask me. Then came Bat out of Hell 2 in 1993, which is an album that got me through my years at high school.
Now, twenty-four years later, I am discovering their fourth collaboration – the unashamedly epic ‘Braver than we are’. As soon as I heard the news that Steinman and Meat Loaf were working together again I got all giddy like a school boy. And although it’s taken some time for me to ‘get it’ I’m now glad that I do.
The only thing more scary than a literal Bat out of Hell is the ongoing march of time. These two accept time’s weathering effects and embrace it completely in the music that they have created here. They made the conscious decision to not try and imitate what has come before – instead creating something new and fresh. In my opinion they have done this in spades.
Souvenirs from the past
Steinman is known for re-imagining and re-recording his music with different artists through the years. This album stays on par with that. However, many of the songs here I hadn’t heard before, as their roots can be traced back to his early musicals that I haven’t heard. Musicals such as The Dream Engine from 1969 and Neverland from 1977.
Saying that however, you may well recognise many melodies and chord progressions from earlier Meat Loaf albums. ‘Original Sin’ can be heard haunting the song ‘Loving You Is a Dirty Job (But Somebody’s Gotta Do It)’.
What I find really great about Steinman’s music is how it has stood the test of time, and has adapted through the years. As different artists have interpreted his works it has given the songs new dimensions. Hearing a well known lyric from the Bonnie Tyler song ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ during ‘Skull of your Country’, made me want to throw my fists in the air with joy. Cian Coey, who accompanies Meat Loaf in this song adapted its delivery beautifully and absolutely nailed it.
Stand out songs
The album kicked into a more familiar gear for me with the second song: ‘Going All the Way (A Song in 6 Movements)’. This song is absolutely incredible in how it takes you to so many places in its eleven and a half minutes. It is as grand and as symphonic as I’d expected from Jim Steinman’s pen. Like the rest of the album, it gets better with each listen.
The two featured vocalists on ‘Going All the Way’ are worth mentioning here. Ellen Foley and Karla DeVito both feature, with the voices of both soaring high and wide across the song’s huge canvas. They were both featured on the studio and live versions of the classic ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’, respectively. So it was great for them to come together for this album after so many years have passed.
Souvenirs touches a lyric from Two out of three aint bad and a musical progression from ‘Left in the Dark’. It’s little touches like these that made the album feel like home on the first listen. And if I wasn’t in love with this album before the song ‘More’, then I definitely was afterwards. This song brought with it an almost John Carpenter accompaniment along with its deep chugging guitar work.
Braver than we are closes on the gloriously upbeat, rock n roll belter, ‘Train of Love’. Closing the album in true Steinman style: an anthem to those moments when you feel like you’re on the head of a match that’s burning.
Any fans of the grandiose lyrics and arrangements of Jim Steinman will not be disappointed with this album. Anyone expecting Meat to hit the same high notes as he did in his early days, take heed – he isn’t afraid to embrace his deeper voice in this album, and neither should you.
Meat Loaf is known for his operatic delivery and larger than life presence on his albums. But on ‘Braver than we are’ he isn’t afraid to reel it in. As he sings on ‘Who needs the Young’, his voice just isn’t what it was. And that’s okay. Even in the lower end of the spectrum he delivers with the same authority that I always remember him having.
The more I listen to this album, the more it feels like a goodbye from both Steinman and Meat Loaf. The usage of so many themes from earlier material made this album feel like a closing overture to their collaboration. Kind of like how ‘overture’ from The Who’s Tommy touched on that album’s later themes and riffs. ‘Braver than we are’ did this for me but on a grander, career-spanning scale. All of this in the waning era of some of the most powerful, passionate music I have ever had the good fortune to experience.
Leading on from the series’ opener, Witching Time, is the second episode of the eighties British anthology series Hammer House of Horror. The Thirteenth Reunion is a step away from the supernatural – perhaps consciously so in order to display the show’s diversity.
What’s The Thirteenth Reunion about?
Ruth is a newspaper reporter who has been stuck reporting on the mundane for too long. As part of her job, she is sent to a nearby health retreat called “Think Thin”. The owner has some questionable encouragement methods and she is sent to get the story.
During her first day she meets Ben, a well to do banker who dies that evening. His death occurs soon after taking a slimming pill that was given to him by the clinic. Although she is initially shocked at the news of his death, Ruth wastes no time in turning the suspected foul-play to her advantage. The advantage being the possibility of breaking a potentially big news story on her own.
She is approached at Ben’s funeral by the director, who suspects his bosses of being up to something shady with some of the bodies – Ben’s included. She takes this opportunity to team up with the funeral director to investigate his bosses’ strange goings on. These events set Ruth on her passage of exploration that ultimately lead her to an unforgettable twist ending that will leave you open-mouthed long after the credits roll.
The horror is not knowing
There is no way to talk about the closing ten minutes of this episode without ruining it for you. What I will say is that you wont see it coming, not the full story at least.
All the way through this episode we are kept in the dark almost as much as Ruth is. We do get to see some of the interactions between shady characters that she doesn’t, but never enough to give the game away.
The Thirteenth Reunion is an episode that plays its cards very close to its chest. The majority of the episode is pretty standard investigative journalist stuff and it isn’t until the final few minutes that the real horror begins. And the majority of that horror is not in what it chooses to show you, but in what it chooses not to.
Bad for Good by Jim Steinman is one of my all time favourite albums. Less is known about his only solo album than his collaborations with Meat Loaf.
It’s a crime that more people aren’t aware of this album. I absolutely adore every song on here and if I had to choose some desert island discs, this would be on there. Other artists, who have worked with Steinman, have been able to do versions of some of these songs. But for me nothing comes close to this grand, hugely personal collection.
Bad for Good by Jim Steinman
Bad for Good, the eponymous opening song, kicks the album off with pure fire. It encapsulates the things that Jim is so great at: intense, energetic musical passages; huge, expertly-woven orchestrations; lyrics that paint epic pictures of passion, power and love. His lyrics read like poetry and are delivered with great conviction and authority. The speed change half way in, with the verse that follows it, is one of my favourite moments on the whole album. The whole song plays like its own self-contained, nine-minute opera.
‘Lost Boys and Golden Girls’ is a much calmer piece, which I think is needed after that opener. Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell 2 album used another version of this song in 1993. However, Jim’s version feels much more personal and stripped back to me. I love both versions but something about Jim’s rendition just pips Meat Loaf’s to the post.
‘Love And Death And An American Guitar’ is another track that was reused on Bat Out of Hell 2. Again, as with the previous song, this version is a lot more stripped back – with nice synth fills used to dramatic effect. It’s actually a spoken word piece that acts as an intro to the song that follows, ‘Stark Raving Love’.
‘Stark Raving Love’ and ‘Out of the Frying Pan (And into the Fire)’ both keep the energy riding high. As does a later song called ‘Dance in my pants’, a fun duet with Karla DeVito in a similar vein to Meat Loaf’s song ‘Dead Ringer For Love’ (also written by steinman).
Big energy and wide diversity
Jim Steinman’s music has such energy and diversity to it and Bad For Good is the best possible showcase for those qualities. These songs never fit into a simple groove and just plod along. They are either melting your face off from fifteen different directions or are ripping your heart strings out with their gorgeous melodies and melancholic lyrics.
‘Surf’s up’ and ‘Left in the Dark’, two songs that slow the pace somewhat are such beautiful ballads. The latter is a heartbreaking, often angry ballad about a man aware of his lover’s infidelity. These lyrics taken from the song say so much more than I could by describing it to you:
But don’t tell me now, I don’t need any answers tonight
I just need some love so turn out the lights
And I’ll be left in the dark againLeft in the Dark, Jim Steinman (from Bad for Good – 1981)
The album closes with the huge-sounding orchestral instrumental, ‘The Storm’. This piece wouldn’t be out of place as an overture for a huge opera production. And it serves further show just how diverse this man’s music is. It’s moments like this that make me wish that Jim Steinman was a prolific film composer. His operatic and, quite frankly, epic visions for music would do cinema so must good.
A gem of an album
Bad for Good is a golden nugget of an album. It’s not very well known, even by many rock fans I’ve met, which is a shame. Whilst many may recognise his name from the front of Meat Loaf’s biggest albums, many more may not be aware of this solo album of his. I’m going to go on record and say that I believe this album is a cult classic – it demands to be listened to and appreciated by all.
One evening David is composing the score for a new film when a loud but brief storm hits. When his dog, Billy, goes running off, he pursues it into the nearby horse stables. However, in the stables he doesn’t find Billy; instead he finds a mysterious woman in a black robe lying in the hay.
Black magic woman
Lucinda claims to be a witch from the 17th Century who managed to escape her execution by sending herself forward in time to the present day. She is played excellently by fiery red head Patricia Quinn. Lucinda is probably my favourite of the four main characters in this episode. Her portrayal of the ever-maddening witch is an entertaining watch, albeit not as scary as I would expect from this series.
As she becomes infatuated with David, Lucinda finds new and interesting ways to get inside his mind. Using the knowledge of David’s wife’s infidelity to her advantage, Lucinda slowly twists his mind against her so she can try and have him to herself.
Winter is coming
I knew I recognized the actor playing David Winter by not only his face, but also his distinct delivery of his lines. It was none other than Jon Finch, who I remembered from Hitchcock’s underrated ‘Frenzy’. Finch plays David with a similar, direct intensity – even in quieter scenes – that I remembered fondly from Frenzy.
I enjoyed seeing David’s slow descent into madness as the story escalated towards its heated conclusion.
What happened to Billy?
Although this is not the strongest – or my favourite – episode of the series, it does have one of my favourite concepts for a story. The horror is downplayed considering it’s the first episode of the Hammer House of Horror. However, there are plenty of unsettling moments that should appease the hardest of Hammer Horror fans.
Unfortunately nobody knows what happened to billy.