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October 2015

The Black Tapes Podcast

Let me tell you about a podcast that changed the medium forever. What could be arguably held as the most immediately successful podcast since episodic audio via the internet became a thing. That show was called Serial.

With its fresh format mimicking TV magazine shows and indie documentaries, its subject matter, a true story of an accused and convicted murderer and the possibility of his actual innocence, Serial took the podcast world by storm.

Now let me tell you about a show that blatantly steals that format, replaces the subject matter with a story about an investigative journalist focusing on the paranormal, and captures the listening public’s attention in a way that hadn’t happened since Serial itself. That show is The Black Tapes Podcast.

True to it’s spiritual predecessor, The Black Tapes is a very highly produced and well written show. Season one is over now, and the entire run is available everywhere. When it was being published I never saw an episode go out late. The voice talent is very natural sounding for the most part. There was one moment where someone pronounced Nirvana “Nir-VAN-uh” when referencing the band, which took me out of the story for just a minute. That was early on, easily forgivable, and in my assumption due to the voice actor most likely being Canadian. Aside from that one admittedly minor and amusing hiccup I couldn’t find fault as the show went on. The acting sounds professional, and the talent truly commit to their characters making them eerily believable.

The horror factor for The Black Tapes comes in a very X-Files-ish way. With the main story arc playing through every episode there is a through-line that is easily followed, but there are also “Monster of the Week” episodes that restart the narrative from a different viewpoint. I won’t give away the end of season one except to say that the obvious conclusion of the various stories being connected is pursued and season two is all but announced. If there is no season two, this entire project falls flat no matter how good its setup was. That being said, the setup is exquisite and you should listen to it and hope for a future payoff.

I wish I could give this show a perfect 10. The fact that it does lean so heavily on the format of Serial takes away a fraction of a point, as obviously smart an idea as it was. The show does have its scary moments, but it’s less of a Horror factor and more of an underlying creepiness at work here. There isn’t “something for everyone”, but if you’re the one out of ten that isn’t at least marginally entertained by this show, go back to your 5 A.M. Farm report. These are the reasons I couldn’t give it a perfect 10, but I wanted to.

Ratings
Audio Quality\Production: 10
Content\Originality:           9
Consistency:                     10
Likeability:                         9
5’th Element: Horror:         9

Final Score:                       9.4

Head to The Black Tapes Podcast Website for episodes and interaction

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LORE

Time for the second review of podcasts to chill and entertain during Horror Month. This time I present Lore, “a bi-weekly podcast about true life scary stories.” Do you like Stuff You Should Know, but wish it was short and creepy? You’re in luck.

At first glance, with its short length (18-30 min) and simple titles, you may think that there couldn’t be anything worthwhile here. You’d be dead wrong. Lore is one of the best podcasts to come out this year, and that’s saying something. I’ve been recommending it since I found it a couple of months ago and I’ll continue to as long as it remains true to its tagline, “Sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction.”.

The creator and sole voice of Lore is Author Aaron Mahnke. He has three novels for sale on the Lore website and I plan on buying one based solely on his work in this show. If his fiction is anywhere near the quality of this historical horror podcast It will be 16 dollars US well spent for an autographed paperback, and I’m a cheapskate.

The audio quality is beyond reproach, being professionally recorded and produced. There’s not much more I can say about that, it’s top of the heap status.

As for the content, it isn’t the most original subject matter within the horror genre, with subjects ranging from Vampires to the Jersey Devil. However, as the episodes move on the topics start to vary in a much more wide sweeping arc, focusing on more obscure legends that many may not have heard of, while still touching back to the more mainstream now and again. The simple fact that a werewolf episode could hold my attention for eighteen minutes is testament to the quality and original format of this gem.

Being a bi-weekly podcast that is at 16 episodes as of the time of this review I haven’t yet seen a single late release. I also have not seen any signs of cracks showing in the production, editing, or any other facet of the show. This beast is about as regular as it gets.

The overall likeability of Lore, for me, comes from its simple single story narrative. The one negative thing I could say about the show is that I wish it was twice, even three times the episode length. That being said, I know what it’s like producing a bi-weekly hour plus long show and it’s near impossible by yourself unless it’s your full time job.

The horror comes in the production here. The stories, of course, are ghoulish and ghastly, but for fans of the paranormal as a matter of real life fact or anthropological curiosity, they serve more as horizon broadening than heart skipping. The simplicity of the show, paired with Aaron’s expert choice in soundscapes and minor audio accents keeps a clean feel to it, which pulls you even deeper into the stories than you probably should allow. That is what brings the BOO. The fact that you can be caught off guard with your earbuds in at work because you’re not really at work, you’re in the story.

I could go on for a lot longer, but I’ll let the scores give the final say. Be sure to give this one a listen.

Ratings
Audio Quality\Production: 10
Content\Originality:           9
Consistency:                     10
Likeability:                         8
5’th Element: Horror:         8

Final Score:                       9

All of the Lore social media links, including donation pages, are Here in one easy place.

Shadowvane Podcast

The first review of Horror Month is Shadowvane Podcast, an anthology show in its first season.

The current storyline of Shadowvane, “Progenix”, is sci-fi horror original fiction. Produced in the vein of a radio play, “Shadowvane is a storytelling podcast of a similar format to the old radio dramas of the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s.” says the about tab on their website. I agree with that sentiment. The writer\producer Andrew Lister does a solid job of making the show not only listenable, but well produced enough to draw you into his story.

The self description continues, “Think of the classic War of the Worlds broadcasts from 1938 or more modern podcasting examples like Welcome to Night Vale or Sayer.”. While I definitely find Shadowvane shares many similarities of both feel and substance with Night Vale and more so Sayer, I place its story closer akin to Eli Roth’s Netflix original series Hemlock Grove in its first season. Mystery, medical experiments, creatures more than hinted at, emotional trauma, the stories run a comfortable parallel without ever actually being similar enough to cry “Copy”, which Shadowvane is anything but.

Season one also includes bonus content. “Classic Tales of Terror” features short story readings of the works of Lovecraft, Poe, Phillip K. Dick, and Julius Long. There are also fan submitted stories, a poetry collection, and a behind the scenes episode. The show is faithfully released around the first and fifteenth day of every month with bonus episodes peppered between.

As far as the Horror element goes, this isn’t a jump-scare spookfest, but it is seated firmly within the horror and sci-fi sections. A welcome addition to both.

All in all, Shadowvane is a fun show in its first season, and I’m looking forward to the Progenix storyline conclusion and what’s in store for season 2. I recommend this to sci-fi, horror, and radio-play fans. If you would like to support Shadowvane follow the links below the scoreboard.

Ratings
Audio Quality\Production: 8
Content\Originality:           8
Consistency:                     9
Likeability:                         8
5’th Element: Horror:         8

Final Score:                       8.4

In addition to the Shadowvane Podcast website, there is also a Twitter, Facebook, and Patreon page if you would like to support them.

Horror Month

Hello, and welcome to Podarazzi Reviews.

For the entire month of October I will be reviewing Horror podcasts of many sorts, original fiction, continuous storyline, docudrama, anthology, all available within the genre. As this is the inaugural themed month, I’ll explain first my process and give you a look into my head.

To be considered for review a show must have at least 3 episodes, fit the theme of the month if there is one, and be currently active on iTunes, Stitcher, or otherwise easily accessible via RSS.

All reviews are accompanied by an iTunes\Stitcher review from the Podarazzi account.

Review scores will be based on five categories:

  1. Audio Quality and Production. Is the show listenable and is there work done beyond the basic cleanup?
  2. Content and Originality. Does the show do a good job of providing original content within their chosen genre, or at least find a new way of presenting what’s out there already?
  3. Consistency. Does the show come out regularly and on schedule?
  4. Likeability. This is the catch-all that includes the hosts, format, ad-cuts, and everything else that effects a listener’s willingness to return for another episode.
  5. The Fifth Element. This is a genre specific category. This month it’s Horror, so the 5’th here is Spook-factor. Does the show creep, spook, scare, or morbidly entertain?

So now you have an idea of what I’ll be doing here. Look forward to reviews of these shows during Horror Month.

And possibly more, if Limetown and Scared? get up to three episodes by months end.

If you would like a review of a podcast, yours or one you listen to, email me at PodarazziReview@gmail.com

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