Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Dark Game Review - The Swindle

If you enjoy steampunk and are partial to trying to pull off some kind of caper or heist (in games, not real life) then you should certainly check out my review of Size Five Games' The Swindle, a fantastic PC game. You can read my review over on Amongst Geeks at this link.

Image © Copyright Size Five Games

Monday, 27 July 2015

Dark Music Review - Filth Haven

Dark Music Review – Filth Haven

Written By Casey Douglass

Filth Haven
As one half of Swedish/Norwegian industrial duo K.N.O., Kristoffer Oustad is no stranger to the Malignant roster, and yet within the broader context of the K.N.O. sound, his exact contributions were never fully known, or at least immediately recognizable. Listening to his debut solo recording, it becomes evident that the more emotive and moody qualities within those recordings seemed to be his primary responsibility. The 7 tracks that comprise Filth Haven operate on a palpable psychological level and are perhaps some of the most personal and deeply emotional recordings Malignant has released. Oustad shows an innate ability to craft intricate and detailed pieces of grey hued, analog darkness that feel suspended in time… dreamlike and meditative, yet always hinting at something ominous on the horizon, as gradually shifting textures, drifting tones and haunting melodies intersect in a hazy, somnambulant procession. While the method for composition (analog synths, guitar, and field recordings) may have been the same, each track is uniquely different than the next, but in the end, feels tightly bound together by a cinematic framework that sinks deep into your consciousness. An absolutely astounding and rewarding work for those that appreciate all manner of dark music.
After a lengthy album description like that, I don’t feel the need to do much more of a lead-in to my review, save to say that this is my first time experiencing Kristoffer’s music and on the basis of this one album, I am looking forward to hearing more. Read on to find out why.

The Tracks

Elberton 1979
A strong sound that put me in mind of some kind of demonic horn starts this track, and by consequence, the whole album off. An echoing voice-over imposes itself over the blaring, maybe sixty percent of the words understandable. The words are sinister from the start but as they tell their tale, there is talk of large portions of humanity needing to be killed to keep in balance with nature. A harsher grating noise begins and twists upwards, a little like some kind of alarm going off. The sound echoes and grows and fades, and near the end, might be mistaken for the sound of a bomb being dropped from a plane. A short internet search reveals that there is a monument in Elberton Georgia that bears an inscription that talks about maintaining humanity at under 500,000,000. Creepy stuff.

A deep bassy drone pulsates with an even deeper beat, a tinny high-pitched squeal lowering in pitch and then raising again like an old style kettle on the boil. A string-plucked melody emerges before being twisted and perverted by tight twists in note. A high pitched pulsating tone sounds hot on its heels, the rhythm sitting both snugly yet uneasily on top of the persistent bassy drone. Think of someone playing the didgeridoo next to someone else toying with a sound generator and you are getting there. Static appears, the harshness almost sounding like screams in some places. Things quieten at the midpoint of the track, a lighter feel descending as the tones still climb and fall. Voices suggest themselves, like a choir in the background but this is probably an audio illusion. What sounds like an electric guitar note dances over the other sounds as these take on the aspect of an angry bee hive.

Anti-Clockwise Rotation
A fast-paced plucky sound sets this track off to a frenetic start, a faintly buzzing drone and blaring swell of noise rising and falling as part of the soundscape. There are high-pitched tones as the track progresses that sound a little like birds singing if listened to in the right frame of mind. This track seems to be all about the tempo and the core rhythm. The screeching electro-sounds certainly wheedle their way into your brain. The track ends the way it started, with the sounds disappearing, the plucky sound fading to nothing last of all.

Row Me Over
Various bird calls make up the start of this track, it’s very lulling and peaceful. It grows even more so when the sounds of the paddles of a row boat gently hitting water joins them. A gentle drone fades in, swiftly joined by a rattling metallic sound and a pulse-like bass-beat that turns the peaceful soundscape into something a little more trying. Ghostly notes etch out a melody, a very high-pitched noise ringing out over everything like tinnitus. I enjoyed how the non-threatening nature of the opening soon turned into something more sinister, maybe the calm water being negotiated by the row boat at the start turns out to be far wider and far more treacherous than first thought. The second half of the track is all swelling sound, swelling notes and resonances that create a glorious noise. Again, things quieten down as the end of the track approaches, the sound of waves the last thing to be heard.

Another track that starts with a blaring horn-like sound (to my ears anyway). Strings sing in a prolonged note that echoes and distorts, sending resonances into the other areas of the soundscape. A background distortion or humming can be heard behind it, a little like when a sudden loud noise leaves your ears hearing other things once it has vanished. A wall of thrumming drone crackles into life around the midpoint of the track before fading along with all but the blaring sound.

The Sun Maker
This is another track that begins with a fast-paced sound, this one sounds more like the chirruping of a cricket but sped up by some margin. Long string notes loom, small squeaks and squeals dotted around them, growing in length and volume. This is a flowing track which sees the stand-out notes slowly create a sombre melody that battles a little with sounds that put me in mind of a dentist’s drill. It might sound horrid but it really isn’t, it’s quite beautiful.

The Arch
A deep drone and a sound that puts me in mind of wind-battered metal set the foundations of this track, more mechanical/industrial rumblings and sounds being heard now and then. This track has a great underlying rhythm that makes it a great vehicle for the various detail sounds that are layered in.

Filth Haven is a dark ambient album that achieves what it sets out to by the use of drones and sounds with their own self-carrying beat, the momentum this creates in the listener’s mind helping to see them effortlessly through to the end. Compared to other dark ambient albums that I have listened to lately, it features a smaller number of field recorded sounds and contains more high-pitched and throaty sounds, the balance between these two aspects creating an interesting and flowing dynamic in even the more sedate tempoed offerings.

I give Filth Haven 4/5 as it is a great dark ambient album that produces some great impressions and dark audio experiences.

Take a look at the Filth Haven Bandcamp page at this link for more info.

I was given a free copy of this album to review

Album Title: Filth Haven
Album Artist: Kristoffer Oustad
Label: Malignant Records
Release Date: 5 May 2015

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Dark Game Review - Solarix

I review PC space horror game Solarix over on Amongst Geeks, a slice of sci-fi stealth survival that, while enjoyable, had a few issues. You can read my full review at this link.

Image © Copyright Pulsetense Games

Dark Interview - Zalys

Dark Interview - Zalys

By Casey Douglass 

Zalys is a French one-woman ambient project that was created in 2013 with a focus on deep space ambient and ethereal atmospheres. Her music transports the listener into the deeper realms of space, her albums following the concept of a lone space wanderer as he travels through the void. I first heard Zalys’ work in the form of her Reminiscences album and was very impressed, particularly liking the sounds that seemed to echo from video games like Half Life. Zalys kindly granted me an interview which you can read below.

Hello Zalys, thank you very much for this interview, it’s great to have the chance to quiz you on your creative endeavours. When did you first become interested in making music? Did you land straight on the experimental ambient genre or did you get there from more typical avenues?
I became interested in making music when I was young, I think I was 6 or 7. I studied the music theory for 3 years. I wanted to play the piano but we could not afford the music lessons so I kept moving on my own. I was then offered a little keyboard and I had some fun creating melodies on my own and reproducing some music I liked. That's how I learnt. Also, my parents listened to a lot of music and I grew up in this atmosphere : it was mainly electronics and rock, hard rock/metal music, so nothing to do with ambient music. I am more into metal music to be honest and when I started Zalys, I did not know much about dark ambient and ambient music in general.
You have said on your website that the main goal of your music is to "take the listeners into the cosmos where the brightness meets the darkness, where the warmth of the stars mixes with the coldness of the void, where serenity and threat are like one." That sounds like a statement from a personality who is pretty in touch with the Yin and the Yang of life, someone that sees the beauty in balance and acknowledging the dark as well as the light. Would you say this is accurate and if so, how do you think that translates to your music making process?
This is totally accurate. There is always a balance between good and evil, coldness and warmth, darkness and brightness...I mean one can't be without the other. That's how life is all about. That's why I try to get my music to sound as bright as dark. Nothing is totally dark, cold or dead. There is always a sound or a melody which reminds us this statement.
What would you say are the main influences on your music, be it from another musician/band or something from another area of life?
First, I think I am very influenced by metal music in general, especially the darkest styles such as symphonic or atmospheric black metal for example. I love the atmospheres. My most influential bands would be Arcturus and Darkspace. I also like electronic music a lot. I remember being totally astonished by the Jean-Michel Jarre albums when I was younger. I often listen to some OST too, I like those mixing electronics and symphonic.
Your music has a strong sci-fi concept running through from album to album, a space wanderer leaving his planet before its destruction and now adrift in the cosmos. This story has played out in four chapters so far on your albums Wandering Through Space, Summoning the Phoenix, Towards the Sun and The Icarus System. What was the attraction to you of doing this kind of running narrative concept and why did you choose sci-fi?
Actually there are 5 chapters. "Reminiscences" is the sequel of "The Icarus System". It's not the same kind of sound but it is linked. Narrative concepts are important to me. When I listen to an album - for example a metal album - I always look for a story through the lyrics, the atmospheres, the sounds...linking the first track to the last track. I am very enthusiastic when the band manages to tell a story through music and when I manage to represent myself the story. Music creates images in my mind. I wanted the same with Zalys. I don't know if I did the job. But I always told myself : "if you create a music project, it must be a conceptual project!
What are some of your favourite sci-fi films/TV shows/books?

My favourite sci-fi films are Star Wars, Stargate, Terminator, Aliens, and as far as TV shows I enjoy the X-Files and Stargate SG-1. Books I like are Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick's books in general (especially "Ubik"), "Neuromancer" by William Gibson, "The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradburry and "The Machine Stops" by E.M. Forster. Finally, my favourite sci-fi video game is Fallout.

Do you have a set composing process or does it tend to vary depending on how inspiration strikes? Can you reveal a little about it?
I don't really have a composing process. It depends on the inspiration but even when I am inspired, I'm stuck! So it depends on the sound I use, the pads I play with, the modulation of the drones...I try some improvisations and sometimes it works ! "Lux in Tenebris" or "Icarus" were made in one shot.
Do you have some favourite composing tools and instruments that always seem to make their way into your work?
Yes I have. At the beginning, I always used the HG Fortune VST such as Avatar, STS...the first two albums were made with those sounds. Now I play more with the libraries of the Refx Nexus synths and some Native Instruments programs. They always make their way into my work.
Do you have any news of your next project that you can share, maybe its theme or title and when it might be out?
Yes, I have some news. I have recently finished two albums (yeah, you read well, two albums). The first one will be spacey and brighter, the second one will be darker, with more drones and dark pads. I don't have the titles for the moment. But the themes are always about space exploration, isolation, planets/nebulas/...discoveries....For the moment I don't know when exactly they might be out but it would be before the end of the year, maybe this summer or the beginning of the fall.
Thank you very much Zalys for the great interview and good luck with your new audio releases.
You can check out Zalys’ website at this link. You might also like to check out my review of her album Reminiscences at this link too.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Dark Music Review - Metropolis

Dark Music Review – Metropolis

Written By Casey Douglass


Metropolis Album Art


Locked out from the Illusion, this album takes place entirely in our former home. The darkened sky and gargantuan citadels line the horizon as the endless city, we once ruled as gods, stretches as far as the eye can see. Crossing the sea of the dead in search for a Beacon of Light that can lead the expedition to uncover the truth about the factions in control, what happened to the long lost architect and how to open a portal back into the colorful illusion the ignorant call home.

This 11 track Atrium Carceri album is closely connected to The Untold and sheds more light unto what goes on in the Atrium Carceri universe and the Metropois in particular. An industrial, dark, distorted and cinematic experience unlike any other with amazing attention to detail and subtle layering, this album begs for repeated listening to take it all in.

Well, with an album blurb like that, what more can I possibly say? Fans of Atrium Carceri will already be well aware of the kind of audio experience on offer and if you have yet to hear any of Atrium Carceri’s soundscapes, don’t worry, you are on the path to salvation, if you will only keep on reading (and actually go that extra step and visit the Metropolis link at the bottom of this review).

Metropolis is an album that features rich soundscapes that revel in bestowing on the listener scenes and impressions from other places and realms. This is the reason why I enjoy the dark ambient genre so much and Metropolis is a very good example of what I feel are the strengths of the genre. Of course, if you don’t like dark things, it won’t be for you, but if you do, read on.

The Tracks:

The Gargantuan Tower
An ominous drone with wind-like properties is joined by a flare of sound with subtle whisper-like elements, like ghosts attracted to the living or moths to a flame in the darkness. The sounds of footsteps accompanied by a spoken narrative sets the scene, with talk of being trapped for a long time. The track ends quietly, the soundscape cleansed for what comes next.

The Dark Mother
Gentle piano mingles with the sounds of rubble shifting and resonating tones and tinkling notes that shimmer in the air, painting pictures of dark architecture and abandoned spaces. When the beat joins, the piano distorts, the audio equivalent of a fairground mirror warping the person’s reflection, the beat itself a deeper tone that punches its way through the melodies around it, falling away now and then to reveal the sounds of movement in the darkness.

Across the Sea of the Dead
A muffled rumbling drone sits under the sound of dripping water and swamp noises, chirruping and croaking, the soundscape thick with the promise of stench and oppressively humid air. A wind noise does suggest itself but it feels more like a death rattle, hot and prolonged, like being in the belly of beast that is slowly fading away. The cry of a bird pierces the soundscape at about the half way point, the “wind” bellowing in reaction. Other notes only occur in the last 1/3 of the track, a journey from one shore to another the journey undertaken.

Black Needle
Sounds of movement and a pulsing sound are soon joined by a deeper tone and lighter melody. A drone joins and distorts. Sounds like a music box soon follow, the notes hanging eerily in the air before being joined by similar notes. To me, this track suggested someone searching a derelict place, looking for something but at the same time, hiding from the things looking for them.

Decrepit City
An almost fanfare-like note starts this track, sounds of furtive movement hidden by its echoing distortions. It sounds very much like the mockery of a national anthem, something that should be all pomp and glory but now resonating over a dead city, the sound as twisted as the skeletal remains of the black buildings it reflects from. Lighter chiming joins at the midpoint, maybe suggesting some faerie fire, Wil-O’-the-Wisp type pixie light come to cry over the dead.

Sacred Slab
A quite harsh drone rises and fades, a subdued beat and higher sounds adding to the mix. They take on a high pitched female singing voice, to me at least, like angels singing a long way away, before the drone quells them once more. The drone itself is like the rumbling of a spaceship taking off, crackling heat and joined by definite vocals along for the ride.

200 Days
Dripping water and spoken words about distant lands and not being saved are backed by a drone that is soon met with a deep tone that drags the mind down into the despair of the speaker. Harsher tones join it as it ends with a “plink”. The sound has a sharper edge as the track continues. Things die down with a slightly warmer drone near the end, melancholy vying with the dripping water for saturation.

Industrial District
A dual-tone begins this track with high-pitched and droning elements rubbing against each other. A pulsing low-pitched rhythm begins, higher notes playing like some kind of down-tuned alarm signal. If the listener is ever able to roam the dark streets of a steampunk city with rusting robots patrolling the cobbles and belching steam, this is the soundtrack that fits that scenario.

Heart of the Metropolis
A very deep drone that rises in pitch begins this track, a deep pulsing bass sound injecting a feeling of threat and claustrophobia to proceedings. Lighter notes do add some highlighting to the soundscape but this is a maudlin track that just seems to ooze between the ears. The latter part of the track features a sound like a crow slowly being strangled, but slowed down to less shrill levels.

The Cowled Seers
Clear notes sound in a lighter space, the odd eerie rumbling and whooshing of wind making things seem more whimsical than fearful. The wind sound undulates and is joined by lone piano chords, time slows and forces are corralled. The piano notes are joined by others later as a melody emerges, delicate and poignant.

The Machine
A low drone punctuated with metallic rattlings and deep booming noises. The sound is jarring and creaking, the almost clockwork-like squeaks suggesting the titular machine is coming to life, aware of the attention of the listener and not best pleased to say the least. Choral vocals add to this effect, like the rising of Lucifer or of some great creature. The music twists and a darker choir is seemingly joined by more bestial roars as things begin to shift. String notes join the soundscape as what sounds like the hiss of steam erupts from the dark machine, the music swelling around the expulsions.


Metropolis is a textured album that brings so many of the thing I enjoy about Atrium Carceri’s work to the composition of the tracks; from the eldritch rumblings and drones to the ambient sounds that fill the soundscapes with life (or un-life). Particular tracks that I might label as favourites were Decrepit City and Industrial District, the first for its corrupted feeling of majesty, the second for its slight steampunk associations for me. I also particularly enjoyed Across the Sea of the Dead for the way it managed to merge the stifling atmosphere of a swamp-like scene with the chill of a ghostly journey.

I give Metropolis 4.5/5 as it has nearly all the elements I enjoy from dark ambient music, produced in a high quality and textured way that really transports me to places you just don’t find in any travel brochure.

Visit the Metropolis Bandcamp page here for more info.

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

Album Title: Metropolis
Artist: Atrium Carceri
Label: Cryo Chamber
Written, Produced, Artwork and Mastering by: Simon Heath
Released : 9 June 2015

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Dark Music Review – In Two Seas

Dark Music Review – In Two Seas

Written by Casey Douglass

In Two Seas is a split dark ambient album by Mario Grönnert and Mondfish. Mario Grönnert is an ambient musician from Germany who enjoys specialising in the ambient and drone subgenres by combining keyboard, piano and synthesizer sounds. Mondfish are a band project that was formed by Japanese musicians Kaetsu Takahashi and Yorihisa Taura. I must say that the music from the two artists sits very comfortably together on In Two Seas, the tone and pace of each track fitting really well with the one that comes before it. On to the tracks.

The Tracks:

Mario Grönnert - Of Departures
A slow start with one elongated note at a time stretching into the distance. Other notes join it and play around it in a higher pitch, the pace still subdued, the music quiet. An introspective track that gives time for any emotion to breathe.

Mario Grönnert - ...and strange horizons
A higher pitched start than the previous track, gentle bursts of sound swelling and dying. It also features something I quite like in which a sound takes on the guise of vocals but isn’t. Soft piano joins proceedings as the sound continues to wax and wane.

Mondfish – Euphoria
A track that almost sounds like it begins underwater, such is the effect of the low tone of the beginning sounds. Odd notes of piano pierce the gloom however, along with other higher tones. I like Euphoria but it sounded to me like something more darker than euphoric.

Mondfish – Slowdiver
A low drone is played with by a high pitched tone, the backing almost sounding like a prolonged “Om” which I quite liked. There is a tone later in the track that puts me in mind of the sound you get when you dial an engaged phone-line. It’s softer than that but the repeating noise gives a great impression of space.

Mondfish - Hidden pieces
A gentle start to the track, faint sounds joined by gentle plucked guitar. There are echoes and clicks as the track continues, the guitar notes becoming more plentiful and echoing. Again, a track that builds a great sense of space.


In Two Seas is a quiet, introspective dark ambient album that soothes and creates some very nice soundscapes. I enjoyed the time I spent listening to it but it is the kind of dark ambient that I really have to feel in the mood to listen to. With this is mind, I give In Two Seas 3/5 personally, but if you enjoy the more subtle elements of dark ambient music you can add one to that rating to bring it up to 4/5.

Visit the In Two Seas page on Bandcamp at this link for more information.

I was given a free copy of this album for review purposes.

Album Title: In Two Seas
Artist: Mario Grönnert and Mondfish
Artwork: Christian Herzer
Release: 29 May 2015

Monday, 20 July 2015

Dark Game Review - Centauri Sector

I review LW Games' top down PC space shooter Centauri Sector over on Amongst Geeks. It's really rather good. Click here to read my full review.

Image © Copyright LW Games

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Dark Game Review - Rising World

I take a look at JIW-Games' PC open-world sandbox game Rising World, a lovely place to visit, just remember to bring your pick-axe. You can read my full review on Amongst Geeks at this link.

Image © Copyright JIW-Games

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Dark Film Review - Ted 2

If you like foul-mouthed teddy bears you might be interested in my review of Ted 2 over on Amongst Geeks at this link.
Image © Copyright Universal Studios

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Dark Game Review - TIS-100

If you like puzzles and programming, the latest PC game from Zachtronics is called TIS-100 and it could be right up your street. Check out my full review on Amongst Geeks at this link.

Image © Copyright Zachtronics