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Baltimore… (Book)

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Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire review (click for a better look at the cover!)Reviwed by Johnny Butane

Written by Christopher Golden & Mike Mignola

Published by Spectra/Bantam Dell


Christopher Golden, as an author, is a hard man to pin down into one particular genre. Throughout his relatively short career he’s done outright horror (The Shadow Saga), fantasy (Strangewood), even young adult (the Prowlers series, to name but one). Because of this versatility he’s an author that will either continue to surprise you or leave you off guard, expecting anything.

His collaboration with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola has apparently brought out the darkest sides of both men as Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire (the book’s full title) is one of the most haunting, exciting, and bleakest tomes either creator has done to date. And I loved every minute of it.

When we first meet the title character, Henry Baltimore, he’s just another soldier fighting in the trenches of World War I. While trying to cross the dead zone one night, attempting to take their enemies by surprise, he and his squad are beset with gunfire and explosions. Most are killed, the rest left for dead.

Henry awakens to find strange bat-like creatures feasting on the dead. When one of them attempts to make Henry its next meal, however, he finds the strength to fight back and with one fell swoop dooms the entire world.

The rest of the story is told from the perspective of three men who are called upon by Baltimore (now a Lord) to meet at a specific location one night, though no one is told why. The three men are strangers to one another, but each has had his time by Baltimore’s side, and increasingly we get an idea of just what the former soldier has become and why these three men believe him to be something more of legend now than actual fact, despite having all known him personally.

All of these men believe in Baltimore and his cause because of what they, personally, had gone through shortly before meeting him for the first time. Each of them has had their own encounters with something outside of reality, from giant marionettes to demonic bears, and their stories are as fantastical as they come, though told completely straight and therefore made that much more terrifying. The greatest thing about a collaboration like this is that both Mignola and Golden are very well versed in folklore and mythology so they’re both able to bring amazing and horrifying tales.

Though allusions are made to it throughout, and the ending brings them all to a very strange head, the connection to the Hans Christian Anderson poem “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” is loose at first. Every chapter opens with a snippet from the poem, and it’s really up to the reader to decipher how it fits in with the overall story.

If it weren’t for that overarching narrative, this could almost be considered an anthology novel as each man is about as different from the other as he can get, so each relates his story differently. But it’s all to paint a more sweeping picture of a world that has been nearly destroyed by a debilitating plague, a plague that turns normal men and women into monsters that cannot stand daylight and crave blood. Baltimore takes place in an alternate reality the likes of which I’ve never seen before.

Mignola’s illustrations are also fantastic and help make that world even more realistic. They’re the sort of minimalist, heavy-shadowed work any reader of Hellboy is familiar with, but somehow it all seems that much darker in Baltimore. I can’t imagine how long it must have taken him to work out the illustrations that show up on nearly every page of this novel, but rest assured none of it feels rushed in any way. Indeed, this is some of Mignola’s most evocative work to date, which only adds to the overall tone of Baltimore.

If I had any complaint about the book it is that after the first few stories the pacing seems to get a bit formulaic. One man will tell his story about meeting Baltimore, we come back to the three of them at the table, then the same man will tell of what supernatural oddity happened to him that made him believe in Baltimore so much. Though you forget about it while reading the stories themselves, it’s too bad you see it coming after a while.

That being said, though, there’s really nothing not to enjoy about Baltimore unless tales of monsters, heroes and a pre-technology, post-apocalyptic world do nothing for you. If that is the case, I feel very sorry for you. If it sounds interesting, though, be sure to seek out Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Solider and the Vampire when its out on shelves this August 28th, and check out the video interview done by Bantam Dell with the books creators, Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden, below!

4 1/2 out of 5

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
2.0

Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

  • Alive in New Light
5.0

Summary

IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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