Sunday, 30 November 2014

Lack Friday


No, the title isn’t a typo, it’s deliberate. We are now at Sunday and the news is still full of people who just couldn’t rise above and see what a crock Black Friday is. This isn’t aimed at normal, regular people with their heads screwed on properly, this is aimed at the greedy fuckers who practically assault people just to get their hands on a piece of crap that will lose all meaning to them in a few months’ time.

This used to be a purely American thing, but now it is increasingly hyped up in the UK too. But of course, we must all bow at the altar of consumerism or where would society be? Keep the sheeple happy with shiny baubles and glossy gadgets and they won’t notice how shit everything else is.

All of the build-up, all of the hype is designed to create such a feeling of lack (ahah!) that some can’t seem to bare it and just slide back a few notches on the old evolutionary scale. Did they have Black Friday back in caveman times? 80% off a new animal cloak? Free spit-shampoo with every purchase? Maybe people were just too busy with the little old issue of survival.

Now Cyber Monday looms, the day where websites cream themselves trying to recreate the thrill of Black Friday but in a virtual form. You just end up trading physical blows and cold weather for artificial count-down timers and hitting the refresh button of your browser. That’s if the websites even stay up long enough under the load. Lab-rats pushing little buttons to make a treat slide into their cage come to mind.

If you are simply looking for something that you have wanted for awhile at a bargain price, I do wish you luck. If you are just being carried along by the capitalist myth of buying happiness, you deserve everything you get.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Dark Review – Outer Tehom

Review of Outer Tehom

Written by Casey Douglass

From the Ukraine's Oleg Puzan comes this thick drone album of darkest black, every track a perfect 13 minute summoning of elder gods forgotten in time.

I liked the concept of Outer Tehom as soon as I read the above blurb. All 4 tracks are 13 minutes exactly and anything that claims to evoke images of elder gods being summoned gets an instant thumbs up from me. Anyway, to the tracks...

The Tracks:

Black Arts
This first track opens with a deep vibrating drone, much like you might find some Buddhist monks chanting, if they happen to worship a dark god that is. It gives way to what sounds like an audio capture of some firebrand preacher warning and talking about demons. Then it all fades to a quiet deep pulsing and quiet rumbling that unnerves as much as it soothes. Towards the end of the track, tuneless chimes pierce the darkness, like a lone music box left playing its song as it winds down in a tomb.

Mortal Skin
Mortal Skin starts with a sensation of deep waves, building in volume as the soundscape fills out.
After a short while, a voice can be heard uttering uncaught words and raging. This whole track conjured a possession scene from various films to my mind, Evil Dead, The Exorcist, you name it, if it has a scene with strange intonation and bodily possession, this track will make you think of it.

Snake Hole
Snake Hole is a rumbling droning soundscape with plenty of distant echoes and sounds of vast distance. Strangely, it is one that flows past me with little of it lodging in my memory, like a dream fading quickly upon waking. No less enjoyable for it however.

Arcane Shrine
This track features howling wind and distant voices in conversation, bringing to mind a large temple with some strange rite occurring. As the listener, you feel far enough away to be safe but close enough to feel unsteadied by the rumbling vibrations coming from the ground. After a crescendo comes a lull with soft whispered sounds and pregnant silences before it builds once more. This pattern repeats a few times, the ante upped each time until a strange horn is heard above the growing silence as the track ends.

Thoughts
I felt the first two tracks were by far the strongest and most memorable. The drones of Black Arts and the demonic voice in Mortal Skin really provide something solid to focus on and enjoy. Snake Hole and Arcane Shrine are a little more sedate and spacial, and while pleasing, had less in them that appealed to my ear.

I give Outer Tehom 3.5/5, the two tracks that appealed to me the most doing the bulk of the lifting. Other tastes will beg to differ I am sure, but it was almost a case of liking those so much, that the latter ones really had a job to shine in their own gloomy light.

Check out Cryo Chamber here to view more information and purchasing options.

I was given a free copy of the album to review.

Album Title: Outer Tehom
Artist: Oleg Puzan
Mastering : Simon Heath
Artwork : Nihil
Label : Cryo Chamber
Released : 18th November 2014


Saturday, 22 November 2014

What Are You Holding On To?

What Are You Holding On To?

By Casey Douglass


A short while ago, I listened to one of Alan Watts’ lectures. If you haven’t heard of him, he was a British philosopher who did talks and lectures in America during the 1950s, and brought many Eastern philosophical ideas to the West in a way that the Western mind of the time could understand.

In the lecture I listened to, he spoke about how, from the moment we are born, we are on a downward slope of flux, change and decay, culminating in our death. But some of us cannot deal with this and we cling to things that we think make us feel safer or more secure. He mentions the analogy of someone falling from a great height but still holding on to a rock as they fall. It conjures a comical image as to the futility of the act and we might think the person doing it to be a little bit mad. (The lecture name and where he was when he gave it escapes me sadly).

It is now that we can ask ourselves, what if the person is unaware that they are clutching something needlessly? There are many things in life that we are unaware of at any given time. If you are anything like me, you will almost certainly have eaten something at some point and been shocked when there was nothing left, yet having little memory of eating the whole thing. If we can do this over something as simple as food, it stands to reason that we might be doing the same thing when it comes to our thoughts and emotions.

As an OCD sufferer, I have always been aware that I am holding on to a great many things that others wouldn’t think twice about discarding. If I took Alan’s analogy further, I’m not just clutching one rock as I fall; I have used string and ingenuity to pull others nearer to me, fixing them together and have started building some kind of ramshackle house on the plummeting platform!

The “rocks” themselves are nearly all fear based, most featuring some worry of loss, hardship or some fear about the future or regret about the past. Awareness of this is sometimes enough to give you a little sense of release or space, even if you still cling tightly to them in every other way. As an example, I am almost certain that even if I collapsed on the street and was rushed to hospital, once there, I would still find my mind obsessing about whether I left a light turned on or my laptop on charge. It sounds strange to hear that even knowing something is worth letting go, that knowledge is sometimes not enough to allow the “letting go”. I fall into this trap regularly. If I find my life becoming more and more stressful, tiring and just generally less enjoyable, I know that it is usually because I am grasping too much.

One rock that I know I did inadvertently let go is the one which symbolised my dreams and fantasies. I just don’t seem to have them any more and when I think about that, I don’t mind too much. They drew me away from the present moment and gave me something fake and dazzling to compare my life to, which usually ended in me feeling terrible when the inevitable differences reared their heads. I don’t mind living in the moment, and after all, if dreams and fantasies stop making you happy or giving any sense of relief, they should be dropped just like anything else.

I doubt I will ever be able to let go of all the “rocks” that I have latched on to. I would like to think that the occasional awareness of the futility of the struggle might give me a measure of bravery, the desire to loosen some of the binding ropes and the will to let some just drift away, watching them mingle with the other falling debris around me.

Now it’s your turn. Have a think. What rocks are you holding on to?

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Dark Review - The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath

I look at I. N. J. Culbard's adaptation of one of my favourite Lovecraft tales, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, here on Geek Syndicate. It's awesome!


Friday, 14 November 2014

Dark Fiction - Glue

Glue

By Casey Douglass

as part of #fridayflash

The last log in the makeshift fireplace cracked like a gunshot.
‘Mum!’ Maxwell cried, his eyes searching her out in the dim space.
‘It’s okay it’s okay!’ Wendy soothed as she scuttled over on her hands and knees. ‘It was just the log!’
‘It frightened me!’
‘It’s because it’s empty in here Max, the sound echoes off the walls.’
She cradled the sniffing boy, the first sign of a snot bubble beginning to form under his sooty nose.
‘How long are we staying here?’ His eyes locked onto hers, dams of tears ready to flow whatever her answer.
‘We are going in a few minutes, now that we are awake. Might as well make use of the day.’
‘Muuummm!’
‘I know Max,’ she whispered as she held his face to her chest. She glanced around the abandoned garage, the early light of dawn fingering its way under the heavy metal shutter.
She lifted the boy’s head and ran a finger over his cracked lips. ‘Time to seal. No point waiting til after breakfast as we’ve got nothing left.’
His tears began to flow as she reached behind her for the small yellow tube. The one with red writing and gas mask pictograms scrawled across its metallic surface. The stuff that seemed to last a perfect twelve hours. Max sat surprisingly still as she squeezed some along his lower lip, then gently close his mouth. She pinched his lips for a sixty count and let go. ‘How’s that?’
He sniffed and nodded. She felt his eyes on her as she did the same thing to herself, the clear gloopy liquid flowing into the damaged skin of her lips. A tear dripped down the side of her face.
Once the glue was firm, she corralled Max into helping her tidy their sleeping things. She gave a tight smile when she realised that a lack of provisions also meant a lack of washing and rinsing. She left the lone oat bar wrapper from their bedtime snack to dance across the concrete floor, frolicking in the dust and grime.
Both stood near the shutter, the first howls ululating outside at the first sign of the sun. She glanced at Max and was warmed by his hobbled smile. With a nonchalance her stinging lips protested, she lifted the shutter and guided them both out into the glare. After all, she thought, they had nothing to fear, the creatures couldn’t get in, not as along as they had glue.

THE END

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Dark Review - Interdimensional

Interdimensional Review

Written by Casey Douglass


Interdimensional is the first dark ambient album to be released by musician Ager Sonus, a composer who enjoys mixing real world ambient sounds with electronic and synth to create deep soundscapes that entertain the ear.

In this review, I take a listen to Interdimensional and try to give an impression of how it affected me.

The first thing I noticed was the crispness of the real-world sounds used in many of the tracks. Rain, footsteps and nature all managed to blend into the soundscape and yet still seemed defined and separate. I found this with most of the other sounds in Interdimensional too, they all seem to occupy their own space and claim it, rather than, as with some other ambient tracks, undulate and oscillate in a more symbiotic way. It’s not a bad thing, not at all; it's just something I noticed.

Now for each track in turn:

Nocturnal Stroll
This is the longest track with a running time of around ten minutes. It begins with footsteps and the sound of the falling rain, leisurely and at ease. As the track continues a catchy background melody chimes in, which to me hinted at crossing into a fantastical dark city.

Distant Water
Starting with more footsteps and the sound of water, a background droning carries us through this track, changing as it progresses to what I could only liken to sounding like sci-fi energy rushes building around a great machine.

Voce Arcanum
An echoing voice recites verses in an unknown language (to me at least) with a pulsing simple sound for accompaniment. As the composition continues it becomes louder and slightly discordant as it nears the end.

Orbital Exploration
Light and bouncy sounds seem to reverberate back into your ears. I found that it conjured images of trajectories and star charts in my mind.

Hive
Aptly named as begins with the sound of distant droning, like bees far away. It also features chimes and sounds that you aren't sure are music or screams.

Magnam Noctis
Begins with the sound of an owl and the broader sounds of night time. A crackling fire and insects a joined by an ominous drone, with a main melody that sounds like an insect swarm mingling with the howling of wolves. It has a certain majesty about it that hints at lofty events unfolding in a strange valley.

Pillars of Creation (Featuring Ivan Black)
This track feels spacious and peaceful, conjuring the image of a row boat on a still lake under a starry sky. Then things flip upside down half way, you fall into the sky and everything becomes cold and abyssal dark.

Dystopian Visions
Simple and light tones with an airiness until the drums and bass guitar comes in. A pleasing melody.

Horologium
The simplest way to describe this track is it makes me think of a chittering darkness, alive with the movement of strange insects.

What’s in those sewers?
Footsteps on a journey to find out the truth. Strange cries and haunting piano hint at the answer being something familiar yet all the more fearsome for it.

My Thoughts
I enjoyed listening to Interdimensional, as attested to by the fact I am on my third or fourth listen as I write this review. I appreciated the sound quality and the variety of soundscapes conveyed. The tracks themselves take you between nature and ruins, to space and the void, and right back down to the ground again. I thought they all had a great feeling of space (as in a large area rather than the black starry kind) and used some interesting melodies to give the mind something to focus on amongst the drones.

I give Interdimensional 4/5. It was a very enjoyable listen but as I stated in another dark ambient review, wasn’t twisted enough to my own personal taste, but that's just me.

Visit Ager Sonus on Bandcamp here to view buying options.

I was given a free copy to review.

Album Title : Interdimensional
Artist : Ager Sonus
Released : 22nd October 2014.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Dark Review - Cthulhu

Review of Cthulhu

Written By Casey Douglass

Ah Cthulhu, one of my favourite dark gods. It’s a bit of a shame his image has been commercialized to such a degree that you can buy cute plush toys and cartoon mugs bearing his likeness. I favour the more old-school designs that paint him as a true sunderer of worlds. Cthulhu, the dark ambient album from Cryo Chamber, falls into the latter camp in every way, from the evocative artwork on the cover to the leviathan sounds on the track.

Yes, Cthulhu is one mammoth track that is almost 80 minutes long. I like this as it dissuades you from skipping around. You can just set it going and leave it alone.

It begins with the sound of sea and storm, wet dripping and some strange creature hissing in the darkness. To me at least, it conjured the image of an isolated stone house on top of a cliff gazing down at the undulating mass of an angry ocean. Then you go deeper.

The sounds take on the distortion of being underwater, creating an almost claustrophobic feeling, yet you also have the feeling of being suspended in a great void with unknown things swimming beneath and around you. You can hear them. Think whale song but more sinister and you are half way there. It’s very relaxing, if you are of a certain frame of mind.

It is after this that the first melodies begin to play. They are haunting and distant, like ancient horns blown far far away. They conjure Cyclopean underwater cities and strange flora and fauna to mind, things that have existed on the planet millennia before humans were around.

As things progress, you feel that you are inside massive structures, echoing thumps and shrill cries reverberating from walls that no human has seen or touched.

About half way into the track, things turn a little sci-fi. Static and crackles hint at energy manipulation, reality tearing and the great power of Cthulhu brought to bear on the veil that separates the worlds.

For me at least, the rest of the album is the sound of Cthulhu unleashed, culminating in his appearance amidst the screams of onlookers. His calls and bellows are epic; the sea around his body broiling and surging away from him. It could have been his emergence near some sea-faring vessel but I liked to imagine he was approaching the shore near a large modern city.

There we have it, a fantastic dark ambient album that should appeal to any Cthulhu fan. A knowledge of Cthulhu isn’t a must but you will certainly get the most from this soundscape if you at least have some awareness of H.P Lovecraft’s work.

I give Cthulhu 5/5, it’s everything I want from a dark ambient track, married to a concept that I already like a great deal. Visit the Cryo Chamber page here for purchasing options.

I was given a free copy to review.

Album Title: Cthulhu
Artists: Alt3r3d Stat3, Alphaxone, Aseptic Void, Atrium Carceri, Cryobiosis, Halgrath, Neizvestija, Ugasanie, Mystified, Asbaar, Dark Matter, Sjellos, Sabled Sun.
Mastering : Simon Heath
Artwork : Simon Heath & Nicolas Crombez
Label : Cryo Chamber
Released : 30th September 2014

Monday, 3 November 2014

Breathe

Breathe

By Casey Douglass


Inhale,
draw in feelings of peace, happiness and relaxation.

Exhale,
let all the stress, negativity and illness within flow outwards.

Inhale, Again take in the feeli-

You know what? Fuck it.

Inhale,
drink in the pollution, the sadness and death. Suck it all in until your chest strains and stomach trembles.

Exhale,
push out any feelings of hope, comfort and joy. Eject it all until your cheeks are hollow and your lips tingle.

Repeat.

Let’s get this fucker over with.
 
 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Dark Review - Littlest Lovecraft Presents The Dunwich Horror

After attempting and nailing an adaptation of The Call of Cthulhu for younger readers, Littlest Lovecraft has moved on to another of H.P Lovecraft’s well-known tales, The Dunwich Horror. Click here to read it on Geek Syndicate.