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What I'm Listening to: Hardcore History

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The Show

Growing up, I loved watching The History Channel and digging through books about World War II or Ancient Greece. In middle school, I read stuff like The Iliad, A Bridge Too Far, and The History of the Peloponnesian War ... for fun. In high school, I read my entire world history textbook even though our coursework barely took us past ancient Rome. Nowadays, if I ever sit down to watch Netflix by myself, I'm picking a historical documentary more often than not. It's safe to say that I considered myself a bit of a history nerd.

Then I discovered Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast and my life has never been the same. The guy did a 23 hour series on World War I (Blueprint for Armageddon)! And I loved every second of it. Next, I went back and listened to Dan's Wrath of the Khans series and it was somehow just as good. I ripped through the free episodes that Dan had available as quickly as you can rip through a long-form podcast about history. Then I asked my wife to get me the $60 backlog compilation for Christmas. Simply put, I have never found a podcast that I enjoy as much asHardcore History.

I should give you fair warning, this is not a typical podcast (as if you hadn't figured that out already). I know I already hinted at the crazy-long run times, but you need to understand that four hour episodes have become the norm for Dan's show. They're great for road trips.

Another unique aspects of Hardcore History is the schedule; it doesn't have one. These episodes take a serious amount of work to produce and Dan doesn't want the product to suffer by rushing to meet a deadline. Fortunately, the type of person who enjoys sitting through 4 hours of detailed military history is also the type of person who has the patience to wait 4-6 months between episodes so it seems to be working out. Thank God for the backlog.

Don't let the fact that this is a podcast about history turn you off from giving Hardcore History a chance. After all, history is just a collection of the best true stories from our past and Dan tells them in a really unique and engaging way. If you're looking for a podcast to entertain you, I really can't recommend Hardcore History highly enough. And you'll probably learn something along the way.

The Cover Art

Hardcore History Cover Art
Hardcore History Cover Art

As much as I love listening to Hardcore History, I have to admit that the cover art is not my favorite.

While they really are beautiful as a piece of art, the eyes at the center of the composition are a little hard to decipher at small sizes. The glut of colors doesn't help with this problem. I get how the eyes could be intended to represent Dan's unique perspective or something like that, but it is a bit of a leap for a new listener.

I will say that it makes a little more sense from a branding perspective when you realize that Dan's other show Common Sense uses the same image with a different color scheme as the focal point. Still, many listeners will never overlap from history to politics so the cryptic cover art isn't doing them any favors.

I understand why the Engravers font was a tempting choice for a history show, but it just isn't working too well here. The horizontal strokes and serifs are too thin, even at large sizes. They actually start to disappear when the cover art is sized down. The Egyptian glyphs in the background are a nice subtle touch that add some depth and context to the composition.

If my critique of the cover art is a bit harsh, it's only because Dan has set such a high standard with the show itself. The image quality is fine and it's pleasant enough to look at, especially at larger sizes. Hardcore History is currently sitting at #4 in the "Society and Culture" category of iTunes, so the cover design is clearly not holding Dan back; it's just not as outstanding as the podcast that it represents.

However, 'outstanding' is exactly the word I would use to describe the episodic and series-specific art that Dan has made for his show. Seriously, even if you have no interest in history do yourself a favor and scroll through this beautiful website. Really top-notch stuff.

ReviewsZach Magnuson