Friday, 27 February 2015

Dark Music Review – 2147

Dark Music Review – 2147

Written By Casey Douglass


2147 Album Cover

I like it when the music I listen to tells a story. Usually it’s something that my own mind constructs, so it’s nice to find an album that explicitly has a story in mind. Sabled Sun’s 2147 does just that:
The third album from the Sabled Suns 21xx series about a man awoken from hibernation to a world in ruins, takes us through the third year 2147. A shattered man self taught to survive in the harsh world left empty by it's predecessors, only it's mechanical children left behind. The protagonist journeys through a burned out world towards the Outer Zones and the rumored space center there, in search for answers.
Sadly, I haven’t listened to the other Sabled Sun albums so I am joining the story a little late (Sabled Sun is the alias of Simon Heath, aka Atrium Carceri). Even so, I was still able to read the description and track titles and enjoy the dark tones of what sounds like a pretty harsh journey.

The Tracks:

Survival
The first sounds are wind and footsteps, thunder rumbling ominously in the distance. There is birdsong, but this soon takes on a perverted aspect: the sound isn’t normal, which makes it sinister rather than consoling. A drone fades in with crackles that sound like the noise rain makes on an abandoned tent, stray droplets hitting tin cups and other utensils left behind. Piano joins the composition and a swirl of sound which becomes more abstract around the midpoint of the track, the more natural noises disappearing as drone and tones reign.

Our Mechanical Children
A higher pitched sound and warped tones begin this lighter track, their sounds echoing and fluid as they conjure images of sunlight shining from the edges of large metal objects. Repeated vocals loop like a broken tape, each time the words saying something different. The track and the title brought to mind a lost robot, sitting in a room watching old news reels, trying to piece together what happened to humanity and where we’ve gone.

Emulation
A staticy electro-sound thrums this track into life, setting up a nice beat that other tones can dance around. Piano notes join the fun and the track gently lulls the listener, the contrast between the soft and harsh sounds working well to entrance and entertain.

Inner Workings
A low drone ebbs and flows before being joined by an airy sound, which slowly becomes mechanical in nature, rattling and jarring as it dashes into the depths. If ever there was a soundtrack to exploring long forgotten tunnels underground with only a flickering candle for company, this is it. It is injected with a beat just after the midpoint which turns a once relaxed track into a more “There’s something after you, better get out!” affair.

Flesh
Muted tinkles and a swelling tone merge with the sound of dripping water and long keyboard notes. This is the track that could play as an adventurer is carried semi-conscious over the shoulders of some horrific monster. If it was a horror film, think slo-mo and a route that passes the severed body parts of its other victims.

Journey
Light and airy. Violin notes reach high into the overcast sky before glancing off low hanging clouds. If the previous tracks were in the dark tunnels of some hell hole, this track would be the emergence into the ruined air of a landscape that might hold just as many threats as the realm last vacated.

The Outer Zone
A crackling distortion and deep horn-like tone join with what sounds like vocals or whispers cut short. A rumbling string infused soundscape reverberates with distant, very distant chimes that grow nearer.

The Space Center
Sounds of a dog-like animal barking and howling merge with wind and trees as footsteps unsteadily move towards their goal. A door thuds shut, a barrier between the noises outside. A whimsical flurry of synthesized notes sounds before footsteps crunch along the grainy floor. A string accented drone begins, creating a great sense of something happening. Snatches of radio-transmission like vocals distort and become clear to ask a question. Quiet tones play a quick melody, much like one of those annoying mobile phone ring-tones before they could actually handle music. It soon fades back into the drone before the quality of the bass changes to an even deeper rumbling that is then overlaid with gentle guitar notes, as echoing and reassuring as the drone is dark and powerful. This is longest track on the album which adds to the feeling of exploration and discovery.

Hope
A crackling resonance and bubbling water-like sounds join melancholy notes that sigh and hiss their way into your ear. A quiet track with insect-like flutterings and movements, like strange moths flapping around dusty unused computers.

Home
A caressing sci-fiesque resonance overlaid on sounds of dripping water and quiet melodies. Chimes echo and a drone grows. The whole track suggests a disappointing homecoming, the place ransacked or destroyed, the memories of how it was butting up uncomfortably against the reality of its desecration. Distant birdsong only heightens those feelings even more.

Hibernation
Static and electronic noises warp and mingle around snatches of what sound like voices, echoing beeps pushing their way through. The volume of the static rises and fades, rises and fades as the beeping takes on a guise similar to a life-support machine's vitals sound. The static is very effective at portraying someone slipping into sleep.

Dreams Without a Future
Warm piano notes play a calming melody tinged with melancholy and peace. A secondary note joins them around the midpoint and plays around them adding another layer of interest.

Thoughts
2147 is a subtle dark ambient album that revels in creating interesting soundscapes that ease you through them, rather than hurrying you along to the next big rumble-drone finale. While the concept and tracks do fit with the story of the description, my mind did what it usually does and concocted its own impressions of what was going on, though still loosely associated with the narrative.

Stand out tracks for me were Survival, Our Mechanical Children and Flesh. The first for its atmospheric nature sounds and the ease in which it lures the listener in. I enjoyed Our Mechanical Children for its vocal hook and mental impressions of sunlight. Flesh I enjoyed for its darker tone and dank oppressive feelings.

I enjoyed my time with 2147. Every part of the album is polished and seamlessly put together. I also enjoyed how it sounded more like Atrium Carceri on a couple of occasions. My rating for 2147 is a well deserved 4/5, I can’t really fault it but as I’ve often said, my own taste tends to the jarring rather than the subtle and smooth when it comes to dark ambient.

Visit the Cryo Chamber Bandcamp page here for more information.

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

Album Title: 2147
Artist: Sabled Sun
Label: Cryo Chamber
Written and Produced: Simon Heath
Mastering and Artwork: Simon Heath
Released : 10th February 2015

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Dark Book Review – Blood Vengeance

Dark Book Review – Blood Vengeance

Written By Casey Douglass


Blood Vengeance Cover

More and more frequently, I’m running into articles and snippets that feature some element of Environmental Psychology, the relationship between people and the spaces they occupy. What such a study would make of The Montague and the shadows that pass behind the peep-hole of room 213 I couldn’t even imagine. Then again, maybe no study is needed if Michael Schutz-Ryan's Blood Vengeance covers all the bases.

Blurb:
Sick of being bullied, seventeen-year-old Brennan Cooper packs up for San Francisco to start over. But before he can settle into his new home, Bren is drawn to the abandoned apartment downstairs. In its shabby rooms, he sees the grey and rotting ghosts of murdered girls claw each other in sick imitation of their deaths.

With his wild new friends, Brennan explores the seedy streets of the city. But the laughter and screams downstairs continue to both terrify and entrance him. After meeting Tara, his dream girl, he convinces her to explore the downstairs apartment with him. There they encounter not only the murdered victims but the raging spirit of the girls’ dead killer.

Bren and Tara’s ghost-hunt soon becomes a manhunt as they trace the history of the “San Francisco Ripper.” But retaliation for their meddling is quick and brutal. Now time is running out, not just for Brennan and his friends, but for the spirits of the girls trapped for all those years with their murderer.
Brennan is an immediately likeable character, his lack of confidence and bookish nature will more than likely resonate with anyone who remembers what it’s like growing-up as an awkward outsider. He gets on really well at his new home so it’s a real shame that paranormal shenanigans get in the way. He starts to become the person he wants to be, makes new friends and lives a better life, but always has nagging nightmarish fears and thoughts. The topic of these thoughts is what is going on one floor down in the dilapidated hotel where he now lives with his Uncle Marc.

There is a varied cast of other characters, his new friends all have their own distinct voices, mannerisms and secrets, and other more peripheral characters are all different enough to stick in the mind and add something to the tale. The setting of San Francisco is brought to life by Michael Schutz-Ryan’s words and you are never in any doubt about where things are happening nor left mentally scrabbling for orientation, except in those scenes where that is the desired outcome!

The group of friends seems to go from misfortune to misfortune, on the surface being down to personal choices but on another level, Brennan suspects an outside influence. Things escalate as the book continues, the situations becoming more and more life-threatening. Michael Schutz-Ryan does an excellent job of taking the ordinary and twisting it into something more sinister. There is a particularly good situation in the last third of the book that in another guise, would be a happy Disney style event. No such luck for the poor soul in this story.

Blood Vengeance is an easy read, the chapters flying by at an interesting pace with enough background detail to pull you in, and enough points of interest to keep you there for as long as the ride continues. I rate it 5/5, it’s one of the fastest book reads I have achieved in recent times and I think the way that Michael builds things up and creates oppressive feelings is very well done indeed. If you like horror, pick up Blood Vengeance now.

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

Book Title: Blood Vengeance
Author: Michael Schutz-Ryan
Publisher: Permuted Press
Cover Art: Hunter Walker

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Dark Game Review - Darkest Dungeon

I take a look at the lovingly styled Darkest Dungeon over on Geek Syndicate here. I said:
This is Red Hook Studios’ Darkest Dungeon, a turn-based procedural RPG roguelike that focuses on the mental aspects of adventuring as much as the physical. Even if your heroes survive the dungeon in body, their minds will almost certainly be shot to pieces.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Dark Music Review – The Architects

Dark Music Review – The Architects

Written By Casey Douglass


The Architects Album Cover

Dark ambient is a genre that can use an enormous variety of sounds and inputs. While some artists use sounds from the natural world, twisting them to their own ends, others look to more man-made or mechanical sounds. The Architects falls into this second category and puts these cranking, clanging sounds to great use.
The Architects consists of 8 evolving tracks with a mechanical touch to each one. This album is the product of deep theory, ageless echos and murmurs of voices not heard in countless millennium. By use of ritual techniques and unconventional sampling, Randal Collier-Ford takes us to his world of a union between the old and the new. This is an original take on Drone vs Sound Design, leaving enough room on the album to explore both concepts fully, from empty rooms of pure sound sampling and bowing techniques to tracks with bass driven drone fused with distortion and drum hits from the abyss.

The Tracks:

A New Age
A subtle track that crackles with droning energy, like the sound of some giant plasma-infused machine barely alive but ticking over sedately in a darkened warehouse. That is, until a random power surge tickles its capacitors and sparks a cascading thrum into life.

Construction of a Demon
A gentle ‘plastic thudding’ sound gives this track a beat, joined by what seems like the sounds of night falling in a forest, but everything distorts into a perversion of how they really should be. High pitched whining and fittings being cranked judder into the darkness as whirring sounds and others join the soundscape. The track is aptly named, it really could be a demon being constructed.

Eye of the Watchers
A lighter tone begins this track, albeit one that has a looming darkness behind it, like a lone candle in a dark cavern, the dance between the two forces can only end one way as chittering clanking things move just beyond sight.

The Return
A crystalline note swells and undulates as a moderately heavy drone creases the air, the hint of vocals possibly in the distance but almost at the edge of conscious hearing. The volume of the sounds rises and falls until it erupts at the midpoint of the track, a punchy alarm-like sound echoing in the distance as the drone takes full control of the soundscape. This is a fairly gentle track that simmers rather than comes to the boil, except the aforementioned midpoint escalation.

Grave of the Chariots
An airy sound looms closer, much like a UFO might make if it buzzed over head and then landed some way off. Strange creepers and vines crack the surfaces of the ground, shimmering and pixilated and all reaching toward the silver pulsing vessel. Slight tinkling and shrill ‘squeaking’ filters through the air as a bright light erupts from the vessel and begins to scan the surrounding area like a dazzling laser. A long note dangles in the air like a puppet that has had its strings cut but before it begins to fall. Everything holds its breath. These are the images conjured in my mind by this great track.

Hellgate
A rising sound blooms and crescendos with moments of calm in-between, almost sounding like the soundtrack to a movie that plays when the axe wielding murderer is revealed to the audience in a flash of lightening. Echoes and sounds that seem to Doppler away impregnate the soundscape with a looming threat that threatens to break through whatever flimsy barriers stand in its way. A high-pitched whine drills into your ears as the track nears its end. Did something get through? There’s no way to be sure for certain.

Cove of the Architects
Another track that has a whine at the start, like dirty fingers rubbing around an angel’s halo. A lower resonance joins it and the tone of the track begins to drag down towards something darker. A richer bell-like ringing arrives, along with a gentle bass-drone that adds more layers to the shifting tone, the combined result almost like a long held note on a church organ, until it shifts once more. After the midpoint, things quieten and a fluttering distorted fabric-like sound jostles uneasily with a waxing and waning tone that seems to summon up a sound that might be wind, either real or psychic.

Void
Warped vocals and wet slitherings echo in a large space that seems to serve up plenty of things to focus on. Tonal snatches, half-recordings, was it birdsong? It’s gone. Clinking keys? Gone. A voice? Too late. Maybe this is the place thoughts come to relax or let off steam by screaming. Probably the latter, considering the cries and shouts that twist the soundscape as it goes on.

Thoughts
The Architects is an album that always serves up something interesting for your ears to focus on. The mechanical and metallic sounds work well and certainly bring strange contraptions in dark places to mind. If I had to choose some favourite tracks, it would be Eye of the Watchers, Hellgate and Void, all of them mix the subtle with the creeping darkness in a way that I really enjoyed.

I give The Architects 4/5. It’s a great listen with inventive sounds and pleasing resonances that I think any dark ambient fan would appreciate.

Visit The Architects page on Bandcamp here for more info.

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

Album Title: The Architects
Artist: Randal Collier-Ford
Label: Cryo Chamber
Written and Produced: Randal Collier-Ford
Mastering and Artwork: Simon Heath
Released : 27th January 2015

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Dark Gig Review – Black Label Society

Dark Gig Review – Black Label Society

Written By Casey Douglass


Black Label Society

We entered the Norwich UEA’s LCR to the strains of Crobot’s last song of the evening, which was a shame. Of the two support bands listed, Crobot was the one that I had most hoped to see at the Black Label Society gig last night.

We listened to the sound-system pumping out various rock and metal tracks as the temperature in the room fought with the chilled Cider shandies in our hands. Yes, Cider shandies, I don’t seem to be able to stomach alcohol anymore. Not that I couldn’t enjoy the aroma that permeated the air from spillages and others’ breath.

Next to take to the stage was Black Tusk, a band I knew nothing at all about. Hailing from Georgia, USA, their wiki lists their genre as variations of thrash, sludge and stoner metal. They rocketed through their songs with barely a moments pause which gave their performance an interesting pace. Their early songs were more thrash than anything, and left me feeling disinterested. As they neared the end of their set, the tone changed to more drawn out, heavier and brutal metal that made my chest shake with the vibration of the bass-guitar. I ended up warming to them, even as I began to feel really rough standing for so long.

Black Tusk departed the stage and the crowd began to grow excited as the crew uncovered Black Label Society’s equipment. A wall of amplifiers nestled either side of the drum-kit, glowing red lights glaring with malice at the fans. It was almost as if they were saying ‘Kiss your hearing goodbye!’ Then Zakk Wylde’s microphone stand was placed in the centre of the stage, skulls clinging to it half-way down like pale lichen. There was a further period of waiting as the sound system belted out Nine Inch Nails and some other songs that failed to get my attention.

Black Label Society

The house lights dipped as the crowd sang along to one more song, and then Black Label Society strode out and started to lay down their own brand of heavy. Zakk’s vocals were loud and powerful, the drums hard and belting, just everything you would want. Midway through the first song, Zakk put his guitar behind his head and plucked as perfectly as if it was in front. The crowd approved. He also took to the small platform off to his left for the solos, a nice touch in an admittedly intimate venue. I must admit that I am a bit out of touch with recent Black Label Society albums. I have some of their older ones but nothing more recent. I didn’t recognise half of the songs I heard but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of them one bit.

Before I knew it, we were at the interval, the band members heading off-stage for a quick drink and whatever it is they do out of sight. Not Zakk though. Zakk soloed for what I guessed was around ten minutes straight. It went on and on and on, a guy ahead of me kept putting his hands on his head in disbelief. Zakk moved around the stage and carried on and on. Sweat dripped from his fingers every few seconds. He was still playing as the other band members came back, and they finished his hanging note together.

The latter part of the gig saw Zakk take to the keyboard and do some of his quieter songs. I’m not such a fan of these but they were a great listen none the less. The last two songs however were the two I had hoped I would hear and had pretty much given up hope of hearing. They belted out Concrete Jungle and Stillborn, each with their own twists and embellishments. They are two of my favourite Black Label Society songs and I am just so happy that I got to hear them live.

At the very end, Zakk stayed on stage the longest and thanked the fans, taking the time to salute them, bump fists, shake hands and smile. You could see it was 100% genuine emotion and it was a great way to round off the gig.

Black Label Society
Today, I feel so fucking rough and my hearing has no bass; even a flushing toilet sounds like a crinkling carrier-bag, but it was worth it. It was a pleasure to see a band of Black Label Society’s calibre playing a smaller venue like the UEA LCR. There have been some great bands coming to Norwich in recent years, some I missed like Machine Head, some I caught, like Lacuna Coil at the Waterfront. Now I have another to add to my list of ‘seens’, or maybe that should be ‘heards’.

Rating: 5/5

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Dark Book Review – Death’s Realm

Dark Book Review – Death’s Realm

Written By Casey Douglass


Death’s Realm Cover

Death’s Realm is the latest horror anthology from Grey Matter Press. It features sixteen tales that investigate what might happen when we expire and where we might end up after the event, many looking on the darker side of the available possibilities.

Whether we choose to think about it or not, somewhere ahead of each of us on this road of life is a dark intersection where everyone will certainly arrive,” said Anthony Rivera, Grey Matter Press publisher and DEATH’S REALM editor. “It’s this much-dreaded and deeply mysterious convergence between life and death where the exceptional horror stories in DEATH’S REALM take place.”

I’ve read a fair number of Grey Matter Press’ anthologies and have come to know a little of what to expect, the twisted vistas, the warped characters and The Outer Limits style unhappy endings. Does Death’s Realm deliver another dose of what ails you? Read on to find out.

First, a brief summary of the stories:

Omniscopic by Rhoads Brazos – A lovely dark science tale that made my skin scrawl. Sometimes, scientific techniques reveal things better left unseen and unknown.

Some Other Day by John F.D. Taff – A unique way of showing that loss can cause all manner of problems if it isn't expressed properly.

Haunter by Hank Schwaeble – What happens while you sleep? Normal things I would imagine, but imagine if ghastly things happened! This story paints that picture.

Burial Suit by John C. Foster – An ex-con decides that his dead father mustn’t go to the next life alone; with bloody consequences for a number of people.

Nine by Aaron Polson – Two children and their anthropologist mother struggle to come to terms with loss, especially when it seems to entwine with her studies of a lost tribe.

Penumbra by Jay Caselberg – A tale following the efforts of a dead man to contact the ‘loved one’ he left behind. Flights of fancy and things not being all they seem make this a great read.

Foxhole by JG Faherty – Futuristic jungle warfare and companionship as two friends cross more than physical borders in their journey home.

Drowning by Gregory L. Norris – Water and the fear of drowning haunt a Titanic survivor to such a degree that his whole life is tainted by the fear of them and the ghosts they contain.

The Weight by Jane Brooks – Emotional and psychic baggage is given sinister form in this tale of one woman’s struggle for life.

Harder You Fall by Brian Fatah Steele – Necromancy and an uneasy association with your mentor all merge in this story of deceit and corruption.

Mirrorworld by Martin Rose – A Satanist tricks a man into becoming another item of curiosity in his apartment.

March Hays by Matthew Pegg – Convalescing after WWII, a man discovers that a place he knew as child has become the domicile of strange beings.

High Art by Karen Runge and Simon Dewar – A man who loses his wife is enjoying life now that she’s gone. He soon comes to regret his part in things however.

A Pirate’s Ransom by Jay O’Shea – Pirates get far more than they bargained for on an old abandoned freighter.

To Touch The Dead by Paul Michael Anderson – A psychic reader examines objects from the lives of the deceased and gets far more than he expected.

You Only Die Once by Stephen Graham Jones – A strange tale of death and waiting complete with bizarre creatures and dark rules.

Thoughts

As was stated at the start, each tale in this collection deals with the afterlife and issues that could arise if certain states and beliefs were true. As a consequence, the tone is unremittingly bleak, as would be expected. Stand-out tales for me were Omniscopic, Penumbra, Foxhole and March Hays.

Ominscopic has the air of ‘mad scientist’ about it, all crackling energies and forces best not tampered with. The descriptive passages that cover the bleak discovery paint a very detailed picture of something truly hideous. I liked it very much.

Penumbra takes place mainly in the wishy-washy fluid-like realm of the dead and is a love story unlike any other I’ve read. The language used and the shifting reality of what is happening make it a riveting read.

I enjoyed Foxhole for its mixture of seemingly traditional jungle warfare with super-advanced weaponry. I enjoyed the narrative as well but the setting won my heart.

Finally, March Hays was another favourite as it’s set in a seemingly normal world before little bits of ‘sinister’ start to creep in. I like it because it anchors the strange to the normal, rather than being disconnected and fluttering free. It’s also a story in which the reader doesn’t see all that is going on until the end.

The other tales are all likeable for varying reasons and I didn't actively dislike any of them. Death’s Realm paints a bleak picture of the afterlife and life in general. This I cannot applaud more. I give Death’s Realm 4/5, an enjoyable trip into realities not really meant to be known, written by authors who have visited them, in mind at least, many times over.

Visit the Grey Matter Press page here for more info.

I was given a free copy of this book for review.

Book Title: Death’s Realm
Book Author: Anthology
Publisher: Grey Matter Press
Released: 3rd December 2014

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Dark Music Review - Nielu

Dark Music Review – Nielu

Written By Casey Douglass


Nielu Album Cover

The first thing that hit me about Nielu was its distinctive cover image. I don’t know what it is about it but it felt somehow quirky but depressing, light but sinister and probably a few other extremes and their counterparts. The next thing that hit me (things hit me a lot it seems) is the distinctive sound. Utu Lautturi hails from Finland and dedicates all of his work to “ever inspiring Nordic nature.” That is probably why I’ve never heard anything quite like this before, and it’s awesome!

Nielu is a meticulously crafted nine-piece journey through various sonic landscapes ranging from abysmal depths to gleaming peaks. Textural ambience, drones, manipulated field recordings and noise elements are supported by traditional instruments like violin, piano, organs and guitar. Vocals (in Finnish) are sparse but play an important guiding role in some of the main conjunctions of the album. Diamond and dirt, ice and fire, stone and water all merge to conjure an extremely visual experience. Each track has a distinct story and are all quite different from each other, yet form essential parts of a whole. The album is mastered for all kinds of speakers but is definitely best experienced with headphones in an introspective setting.

The Tracks

Tis Not Blood
A strange piano rhythm with distortion/hiss and dripping sounds is joined by a deep drone. This sounds like the kind of music that might play when a lone traveller first sees Big-foot or Sasquatch. Quirky and hinting at the strangeness of the situation. Footsteps on gravel do join with the sounds later which only adds to this effect.

Pu-Erh Tea (feat. Rasplyn)
Birdsong and dripping water on canvas with strong strings joins haunting vocals and deep piano notes. This conjures images of a visit to the wise woman or witch that may live in the forest, someone you are unsure of as to what kind of reception they will give you. The sound distorts at the mid point, deepening the feeling of uneasiness and turns more electronic at the end. Loud and strange.

Only Sap
Soft tones joined by light-hearted violin and piano that warps and reverses to create a pleasing plucky rhythm. Deeper tones and peripheral movements darken the feeling as dripping water comes, the sounds getting louder. A growing noise looms and gets stronger before departing abruptly before building again. If you’re afraid of a ghost manifesting beside you as you walk, this might be the music that encapsulates that. Lots of crinkling sounds and quirkiness. Light one moment with upbeat melody and then crushing you with tension in another.

Mother Mountain, Father Stream
Underwater rumbling sounds like horses stampeding are joined by the tones of an instrument that sounds like an accordion. Finnish lyrics are spoken over the top about 1/3 of the way in. Shrill tones and distortions join them before the lyrics dissolve into swirling water. Darker lyrics then sing over an ominous deep tone with sounds of movement beyond them, evoking the sound of someone digging a grave with a spade. A very high-pitched sound wave follows with other sounds behind before gradually fading to the sounds of insect-like buzzing.

Wait And Witness
This is the longest track on the album. A long string note soon joined by a melancholy wind instrument and hiss that builds into a loud whirling, like being in the middle of a squall or gale. This comes and goes with the instrumental tones and creates a to and fro feeling of calm and storm, ease and tension. The tone changes near midpoint of the track, a hushed roar, like a plane engine idling on a runway. This builds and looms for some time like a storm. Instrumental elements come back towards the end with water sounds and multiple gentle vocals and accordion-like instrument as track approaches ending.

Lint
Crackling and grating high pitched string noises boom into a deep and moody wind instrument track, much like you might expect to accompany a retro cat-burglar slinking inside a museum. Except that isn’t in keeping with the theme of the album and you can hear birdsong which places it in nature, so change the cat burglar to a thief sneaking into a troll’s cave on the hunt for gold and you might be nearer the mark. Whimsical and dangerous are two words that sum this track up for me.

With Mouths Of Fingertips
Rolling vibration and hissing audio sounds like corrupt frequencies from another realm trying to impinge on our own. It grows loud and cacophonous, energies straining to make themselves felt. A piano melody joins as the end approaches before fading into swirling electronic noises and then quieter deeper sounds.

Skinned By Sea
This is a brutal track. It begins with the sounds of the sea smashing against the shore, dragging and playing with pebbles. It maintains this for a fair while, the odd distant voice mingling, a hint of rumbling, the sounds of the pebbles clacking and grinding eating into your brain. With the name of the track in mind, it becomes sinister and crunchy, like the sounds a giant might make as they sit and chew bones. It also makes you feel cold, the stone crackling making you think of fracturing ice. The sounds grow louder, almost deafening, causing the feeling of being lost in the midst of massive forces. Quietly spoken vocals mix in after awhile, taking the edge off things as everything else grows quieter, even vanishing completely at one point, save for the vocals. Then things crackle into life again followed by a massive concussion.

Escort
A slow piano rhythm and high-pitched whine merge into louder distortions and whines. The piano note becomes more upbeat as other things swirl around the melody, deep tones and a maelstrom of electro noise.


Thoughts
Nielu is an album that took my attention and held it in a way that few other dark ambient albums have achieved. I want to call it quirky, folksy, naturey and plenty of other words ending in “y” , both real and made-up. I think the mix of real instruments and vocals with the more atmospheric nature recordings and electronic sounds just creates such a textured arrangement of audio that it feels like you are hearing something that you might not be allowed to, something not meant for mortal ears that has slipped through from somewhere else. That might sound grandiose but it’s how I feel.

I really took to Nielu from the first listening session and consecutive sessions only confirmed my feelings. If you are new to dark ambient or you are an old hand looking for something a bit different, pick up Nielu now, it’s a stunning album!

Rating 5/5.

Visit the Pale Noir pages on Bandcamp and its own site here and here respectively.

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

Album Title: Nielu
Artist: Utu Lautturi
Label: Pale Noir
Released : 31st January 2015

Monday, 9 February 2015

Dark Film Review - Continuum

I review sci-fi film Continuum over on Geek Syndicate here. An enjoyable and well-acted science-fiction film that makes more of the human drives and emotions than other, more spectacular films in the genre. Starring Gillian Anderson, Rufus Sewell, Hayley Joel Osment and Victor Garber.





Saturday, 7 February 2015

Dark Fiction - Too Much Reality

Too Much Reality

By Casey Douglass


The metal container stood in his living room like the obelisk from 2001, the light from the afternoon sun caressing its sharp lines and CarryEase handles. He approached it and ran his hands down the side, fingers probing for the release button.
Fully life-like and realistic the advert had said.
Familiar with all known fantasies, fetishes and kinks they boasted.
The best in synthetic technology! More real than reality! They crowed.
His index finger found a small recess and felt something give. A soft hum sounded from inside the packaging. Things began to vibrate. The front panel slid down with a whoosh, the side panels folding back behind the rear. An expulsion of packing steam blew in all directions, the smell of cinnamon and rubber tickling his nose. He waved a hand around to help dispel it.
Then he let out a croaking sound. There she was! The ultimate in “companion technology”.
Her skin glistened as the nano-fibres reacted to the air. She sucked in a large lungful of air and opened her eyes. ‘Hello,’ she said, her voice husky and mid-toned, just like he’d specified.
‘Heh-lo yourself!’ he replied, a wide grin creasing his face. ‘Follow me to the bedroom!’
She stepped out of the container, her naked body glowing as the sun highlighted her curves. ‘No, I don’t think so,’ she said, her voice flat and matter-of-fact.
‘What?’ he squeaked.
‘Just no,’ she answered, her dainty strides taking her away from him and towards the front door.
‘Wait! You’re supposed to love me!’ he yelled as he dropped to his knees.
The last thing he saw of her was her perfect backside as the door slid shut behind it, a wolf whistle piercing the air from down the corridor. He rocked back onto his heels and began to sob.
‘Too real!’ he whimpered. ‘You idiots! You made her too real!’

The End

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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Dark Music Review – Different Streams

Dark Music Review – Different Streams

Written By Casey Douglass

 

Different Streams Album Cover
 
Different Streams is a collaboration between international ambient artists EUS, Postdrome & Saåad. The music was recorded in a variety of locations: London, Costa Rica, Malaysia, China, Singapore and France, between February and June 2014. It has an electric string based sound which is quite novel from my own dark ambient listening experiences.

The Tracks

Dervish Dealer
Electric strings start the track off as other background noises and tones fade in, before they all boil in a pot of one single strong tone, resonating and reverberating with each other. Imagine a massive enclosed stone space and this track might be how things would sound if someone took an amp in there and turned it up to 11. It softens towards the end, becoming a deep rhythm that melds well with the next track.

Bitter Truth
This track thrums into life on the back of prolonged drones, beats and distortion, the sound becoming deeper and more “fleshed out” as the track progresses. The mental image I enjoyed whilst listening was someone sitting at a desk writing, possibly myself, a colossal tidal wave rising up above me in slow-motion, getting higher and higher, the sunlight catching the surface and sending hot electric squiggles of light through the spray. I guess I saw it as a metaphor for the death that will find each of us one day but that we never truly see coming until it arrives. I really liked Bitter Truth for giving me this image.

Wait
A quiet hum and distant echoes begin this track, the distorted sounds of a radio whispering in darkness as other tones and beeps mingle to create an empty space, yet one that holds pent-up aggression. This arrives with the first strong tone and an almost whistling noise proceeding it. This is not a happy place, and not somewhere you would feel safe to wait. Voices emerge later into the track, adding a whole other ghostly aspect to things.

The Only Path
Strong strings start this track before being joined by a deeper drone, two different rhythms mingling to create a fascinating whirl of sound. What sounds like supersonic jets shooting past fizz from ear to ear as the music increases in intensity. The title of the track mentions a path; my impressions are more of a journey coming to an end, or failing where the traveler falls. The latter part of the track fades to a more mellow piano noted ending as things still shoot over head.

Snowfall
An insect-like creaking intro moves on to a piano backed mix of eerie vocals and chittering things with strings. It brought to mind a strange battlefield covered with unusual bodies, armoured, fantastical, and all as dead as each other, snow beginning to dust each one as the battle vanishes over a nearby mountaintop. Sad and mournful. I enjoyed the mix of the high backing and harsh primary sounds.

Section 16
Nature sounds meet a repeating beat that draws the listener deeper into the track. It conjured for me the image of an abandoned building in the countryside, the failing light of evening helping to show up the flashes of strange works coming from the shattered windows. Vocals join with a low tone that sounds a lot like a horn that might be blown as the gates of hell prepare themselves to open. Bizarre shadows flit over the walls, drawn to the dancing lights still obscured by the structure. A deep rumble begins to shake the ground, the world holds its breath. All falls silent as an airy drone winds down.

Thoughts
I enjoyed listening to Different Streams. As I stated in the intro above, the string-based sounds work well with other staples of the dark ambient genre, somehow adding a lightness and a darkness to the general sound at the same time.

I give Different Streams 4.5/5 and I hope EUS, Postdrome & Saåad will get together again in the future and produce another collaboration like this one.

Visit Different Streams on Bandcamp here or visit Grains of Sand Records here.

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

Album Title: Different Streams
Artist: EUS, Postdrome & Saåad
Additional Violin on Dervish Dealer: Nik Koniwzski,
Label: Soft Records and Grains of Sand
Mixed and Mastered by: Byron Christodoulou
Album Art: Charlie Floyd
Layout and Design: Romain Barbot
Released : 23rd February 2015

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Dark Feature - The Strangest Things Can Make Great Games

I've written a feature for Geek Syndicate that takes a look at some of the weirder things that become games and actually turn out to be quite good. Click here to have a read.



Sunday, 1 February 2015

Dark Music Review - Strenuus (Imperial Edition)

Dark Music Review – Strenuus (Imperial Edition)

Written By Casey Douglass




Team Nakrikal certainly lives up to its description on Bandcamp: “high-quality dark ambient releases with lots of content.” Strenuus (Imperial Edition) by Demagolka, features two album’s worth of tracks coming in at sixteen, each around the ten minute mark in duration, give or take a few exceptions. Of course, that’s quantity covered, but what about the quality? I'll get onto that after the blurb from the Strenuus (Imperial Edition) page:

Produced by Stateslaver Zero, "Strenuus: Imperial Edition" is a massive, special bundle including a remastered re-issue of Demagolka's previous material and a brand new album, "Varmalus" - featuring over 2 hours of dark ambient composed by one of Nakrikal Records' finest acts!

Disc One (tracks 1-9) contains remastered tracks taken from "Strenuus" and the "Bloodfen" EP, as well as two bonus pieces of music exclusive to this release.

Disc Two (tracks 10-14) is Demagolka's latest, sixth studio album, "Varmalus". The new album contains over 50 minutes of epic ambient music.

Imperial Edition comes with bonus goodies - hi-res artwork and bonus music from Stateslaver Zero!

Usually in my reviews, I begin with a little bit of titillation, describing the sound and feel before moving onto the tracks themselves and then summing up with my thoughts and rating at the end. As Strenuus (Imperial Edition) is a beast of an album, this would make the review unwieldy to say the least. With this in mind, I won’t analyse every track, I will just mention my favourites and give an overview of the sound you can expect from the album.

The sound of Strenuus (Imperial Edition) is, at first hearing, a less complex form of dark ambient, seeming to lack the multitude of layers some of the other artists that I’m used to utilise. This is to miss the point entirely however. There may not be much in the way of creepy atmospheric recordings or on-the-nose sound effects, but the simpler sound is none the less complex in its own way. Listening to many of the tracks gives rise to what I can only call a chime or bell effect. If you strike a chime or bell, you will know what it sounds like as the sound reverberations die down, the sound slowly slipping away. Imagine striking it but that the sound dies and returns, dies and returns, setting up a pleasing resonance that gives rise to other audio sensations. These other sensations might be thinking that you hear voices in the music but aren’t sure, or picking up on rhythms that you might think you are imagining.

There are also no harsh changes of direction with the music of Strenuus. Some tracks might take on a different tone or undertone after awhile but for the most part, each track is a smooth and measured experience with little to jar or unsettle you. This makes it a great album to listen to when chilling out.

One of the stand-out tracks for me was Waste Forge. It begins with a buzzing energetic sound, a feeling of rotation and industry, like a large dynamo spinning up. This track gave me the imagined scene of a beehive populated with enormous mechanical bees, flitting about and tending to the dark machinery that is fizzing and rotating at its core. The tone of the track changes about half way through which might just indicate a different phase of operation for the colossal device. Sinister and resonant, a great track.

Another track that I really liked was Oil, a track that starts with an almost whistling whine, maybe suggesting some large contraption gaining steam as it strives for life. The undulating noises mix with deeper tones to create a rhythm the holds and carries the interest of the listener before fading to a more echoing and peaceful soundscape.

The third track to catch my attention was Bloodfen. Beginning with a sound that seems to carry a roiling threat, it dissolves into high-pitched sounds that echo and drone almost at the edge of hearing. Tinkling mingles with it and brings to mind, my mind, a pixie graveyard at the edge of reality, a sparkling fog blown across it by strange wind currents.

The final track that I wanted to mention by name is Mute Goddess. Imagine a choir of women singing the ‘ahhhhhh’ sound in a gentle way and that is pretty much how this one starts. The track begins with a light hearted if mournful tone and twists to something darker as it progresses, like a wary traveller seeing an oasis in the desert, only to have it keep pulling away. A beautiful track.

The other tracks not mentioned all follow the same sound textures but for varying reasons didn’t really impress themselves on me in the same way as the ones I mention by name. This is not to say that they are any less interesting however.

As a whole, I give Strenuus (Imperial Edition) 4/5. The quantity is certainly there, the quality too. As I am frequently saying, I do love the darkest of dark ambient, really multi-layered and jarring. I’m not sure I would have picked Strenuus (Imperial Edition) up myself had it not been given to me for review, but now that I have listened to it, I feel that I would have been missing out on something very enjoyable.

Visit the Strenuus (Imperial Edition) page on Bandcamp here for more information.

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

Album Title: Strenuus (Imperial Edition)
Artist: Demagolka
Label: Nakrikal Records
Produced by: Stateslaver Zero
Released : 18th December 2014